Sexism, Racism, and Class in A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner
"A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner is a story about the life of an old woman. The narrator reveals the main events of her life, such as the death of her father, the disappearance of her lover, and the events surrounding her death, and the thoughts of the townspeople on Emily and her life as heard from the gossipy people of the town. One theme -- or central idea -- of the story is how narrow-minded attitudes can cause others to withdraw. Emily is one of the people who withdraw because of narrow-mindedness. The attitudes regarding sexism, racism, and class depicted in "A Rose for Emily" are narrow-minded.
First, the attitude of sexism is narrow-minded. When Colonel Sartoris remitted Emily's taxes, he made up a story about the town owing Emily's father because she would not accept charity. The narrator says the story is one that only a woman could believe. That attitude is small-minded and sexist because men are capable of believing anything women can. Later, a bad smell develops around Emily's house and the women assume it is from an unkept kitchen. Emily's manservant does the cooking and the women say, "Just as if a man -- any man -- could keep a kitchen properly" (83). A more open-minded perspective shows that men can keep a kitchen just as well as women. When Emily and Homer are courting the women think something should be done because they are setting a bad example for the young people. The men do not want to interfere. The women interfere anyway and they convince the Baptist minister to talk to Emily. This attitude is sexist because some men may have wanted to interfere as much as the women and some women may have wanted to leave Emily alone. These attitudes cause Emily to withdraw from society.
Second, the attitude of racism is narrow-minded. Colonel Sartoris, the same man that remitted Emily's taxes, "fathered the edict that no Negro woman should appear on the streets without an apron" (81). The edict only applies to Negro women, not white women. The idea that Negro women are lower than white women is clearly bigoted. Then, throughout the entire story Tobe is referred to simply as the Negro. The only person that ever calls him by his name is Emily. The implication is that Negroes lack individuality. This attitude is very narrow-minded. When Emily goes to the drug store to buy poison, the Negro delivery...