In Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”, there is a constant theme of protection for Emily Grierson, because she was a woman living in the south after the civil war and the requirements that were placed on women enable to be honorable. That is to say that, women needed to be protected by the men of the community during that time in history and women’s actions were constantly under watch to see if a woman was honorable and worthy of protection or not. Within the story, there are many instances in which this is shown. Faulkner also shows the reader a gender split between the men and women and how they felt towards Emily.
In the book Literature by Edgar V Roberts, Faulkner begins the story “A Rose for Emily” with an extremely long sentence which shows the communities reaction to death and immediately displays a scene through gender differences:
“When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral; the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old manservant-a combined gardener and cook-had seen in at least ten years”(76).
This passage displays a tone of the men’s respect and sense of protection toward Emily, which is very different from the other women’s reaction to her death. It also shows the reader that Emily was honorable in the eyes of the men of the town. We have seen this need to protect women throughout history, but in recent years there has been a great decline and it is sad.
In an essay called ‘Miss Leonora When Last Seen’: Why Americans Run Away from Home by Judith Caesar, she describes the situation regarding the way the townspeople felt towards Emily. Caesar says, “To the town, Emily Grierson is first and foremost an upper-class Southern woman with a specific role required of her concerning sexual propriety, a role that enables the town to see her as an image of feminine purity and perhaps, by extension, of Southern honor”(3). This expresses the idea that women had expectations placed upon them from men as well as society, in order to be deserving of protection.
There were restrictions placed upon the ideal behavior of women also in this time in history. In an essay written by Michael L. Lahey titled Narcissa’s Love Letters: Illicit Space and the Writing of Female Identity in ‘There Was a Queen’, Lahey writes
“And the presence of a female erotic gaze in “There Was a Queen” becomes
significant if it signals the inevitable movement towards a female voicing, that absence which Faulkner makes so conspicuous in this story, as he does in his other texts of desire and sexual regulation, of female silence and silences females: Sanctuary, The Hamlet, “A Rose for Emily,” and especially The Sound and the Fury” (6).
For a woman not to behave in an “appropriate” manner was to say she was not a “lady” and therefore was not honorable and not worthy of protection.