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.Print this page