Power “In A Rose for Emily”

The theme of power is prevalent through out “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner. Here are some examples.

When the city taxmen visit Emily’s house in an attempt to get her to pay taxes.

She did not ask them to sit. She just stood in the door and listened quietly until the spokesman came to a stumbling halt. Then they could hear the invisible watch ticking at the end of the gold chain.

Her voice was dry and cold. “I have no taxes in Jefferson. Colonel Sartoris explained it to me. Perhaps one of you can gain access to the city records and satisfy yourselves.”

“But we have. We are the city authorities, Miss Emily. Didn’t you get a notice from the sheriff, signed by him?”

“I received a paper, yes,” Miss Emily said. “Perhaps he considers himself the sheriff . . . I have no taxes in Jefferson.”

“But there is nothing on the books to show that, you see We must go by the–“

“See Colonel Sartoris. I have no taxes in Jefferson.”

“But, Miss Emily–“

“See Colonel Sartoris.” (Colonel Sartoris had been dead almost ten years.) “I have no taxes in Jefferson. Tobe!” The Negro appeared. “Show these gentlemen out.”

Emily just stands in the doorway while the taxmen talk among themselves and are taken aback when they finally notice her. She disregards basic manners by not offering the taxmen a seat or even greeting them. She is the first one to speak and speaks in a stern manner, saying only what is important and nothing more. The taxmen’s try to argue with Emily but Emily still holds on to her claims and kicks them out.

Another event of power in the story is when Emily is buying poison.

“I want some poison,” she said to the druggist. She was over thirty then, still a slight woman, though thinner than usual, with cold, haughty black eyes in a face the flesh of which was strained across the temples and about the eyesockets as you imagine a lighthouse-keeper’s face ought to look. “I want some poison,” she said.

“Yes, Miss Emily. What kind? For rats and such? I’d recom–“

“I want the best you have. I don’t care what kind.”

The druggist named several. “They’ll kill anything up to an elephant. But what you want is–“

“Arsenic,” Miss Emily said. “Is that a good one?”

“Is . . . arsenic? Yes, ma’am. But what you want–“

“I want arsenic.”

The druggist looked down at her. She looked back at him, erect, her face like a strained flag. “Why, of course,” the druggist said. “If that’s what you want. But the law requires you to tell what you are going to use it for.”

Miss Emily just stared at him, her head tilted back in order to look him eye for eye, until he looked away and went and got the arsenic and wrapped it up. The Negro delivery boy brought her the package; the druggist didn’t come back. When she opened the package at home there was written on the box, under the skull and bones: “For rats.”

Here we can see that Emily is incredibly assertive. She says the bare minimum and she says it firmly. In a futile attempt to recommend some poisons, the druggist is stopped before he can even finish his sentences. Emily wants to purchase one thing and one thing only: arsenic. The druggist reluctantly gives in but informs Emily that she must write down why she is buying the arsenic. With a stern look on her face, she and the druggist stare at one another. Finally, the druggist breaks and leaves to get the arsenic ready. He sends someone else to hand the package to Emily. With only a few words and a stare down, Emily had purchased a powerful poison.

These two passages highlight Emily’s power. She barely utters a word but she remains in control of the conversation at all times. She is unmoving in her convictions and remains strong when she is challenged and because of this, Emily always comes out on top.

7 thoughts on “Power “In A Rose for Emily”

  1. Rukhshona Rasulova

    I agree with your opinion. The main character, Emily is very strong and beautiful women. All the men in town falls for her and because of that, the townpeople always judge her. Also, townpeople says she should not hang out with Homer, saying that he’s not “rich” enough or he’s not at the same ‘level’ as Emily’s family to go on date with her. Yet, she does not care about people’s opinion, all she cares is her opinion and her decisions.

  2. Giselle Martinez

    I agree with you. These examples that you have provided, does show how Emily is a strong, independent woman. It also shows how she doesn’t feel the need to respond to the druggist. Emily intimates other and that makes very powerful in the story. As a woman, men don’t really seem to be intimated by them, but Emily intimates them and others. She also doesn’t care about other people’s opinion towards her and that makes very brave and powerful.

  3. Madycyn

    I agree that Emily gives off this powerful image of herself and everyone around her saw that. i feel like she has a way with words because throughout the story multiple people bent the rules or let things slide like the taxes and the reasoning for the poison. I like the fact that she doesnt offer much explanation to who she is and what she does because it makes people scared of her and respect her. Also the way people talk about her and the way she carries herself gives her this image that you almost picture. Emily knew she has power and she used it

  4. Tyra

    I also agree that Emily is a very strong headed women that wants what she wants and get what she wants when she wants it by being very determined. In the story she gets away with a lot of things that most other people wouldn’t get away with to her personality and her not caring about what others think about her

  5. Caitlynvalera

    Although some people might think that Emily was weak because she got out of a lot of things. I think that she is a strong woman and she wasn’t afraid to do what she wanted and even when the town was against her she was able to get out of it. She wasn’t afraid of her situation and she didn’t let the judgments of her town get to her instead she let it empower her. Especially since no one knew what she did it gave her more power and mystery.

  6. Jorge

    I agree, throughout the story she does demonstrate a great deal of power. Like in the examples you’ve provided she held her ground and no matter what others said she didn’t let it sway her opinion or change her. Many had their own opinions of her but she stayed true to herself, demonstrating character. She’s also clever and knows how to use her words to her advantage, allowing her to get away with things throughout the story.

  7. Yasmin

    I admire Emily’s voice of command. When she walks in the room and immediately has control of the situation is not an easy accomplishment yet it comes naturally. Ironically, although her father made her miserable by never allowing her to be with anyone, it also contributed to how she further on perceived herself. If you go on being told that no one is good enough, the likelihood of thinking of yourself in high esteem is is most likely. Regardless, if that’s the reason or not, the amount of conviction and self love that’s required to disregard the town’s opinion and stay true to herself is very great. One thing I noticed was that after she had bought the poison everyone had assumed her life had gotten so bad that she was to resort to suicide. This shows how the whole town seems to be so invested in her life for someone who strictly kept to herself. In all reality, no one ever really knew her, they just knew of her.


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