quiltfic.gif (4639 bytes) Litonline--ENG 112

Essay Ideas

The following topics could be used for discussions of this story, but they are listed as ideas for essays.  Send other essay topics related to "A Rose for Emily" to Litonline webmaster Prof. Eric Hibbison at ehibbison@jsr.vccs.edu 

Emily and Other Literary Characters

  1. How is Emily a tragic protagonist, like Oedipus or Antigone?
  2. Emily Grierson, Antigone, and Mrs. Hale in Trifles all commit acts of civil disobedience, in a sense.  Which of these female protagonists takes the strongest (or riskiest or most moral) stand?  Which do you respect the most and why?
  3. Compare and contrast Emily and Minnie Foster Wright in Trifles.  They were both isolated from the rest of the community by their dominating men. Both become therefore very lonely women.
  4. Jess was assigned to contrast "A Rose for Emily" with another Faulkner story, "The Bear."  (Jess used the term "The Bear Hunting" without mentioning an author.)   What comparisons or contrasts between these two stories do you see?  Consider plot, characterization, and writing style. 
  5. How is the relationship between Emily and her father in "A Rose for Emily" like and not like the relationship between Sarty and Abner Snopes in "Barn Burning."
  6. How is Emily like and unlike Nora in A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen and the confined wife in "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Gilman Perkins?

  7. Compare William Faulkner's description of a female, Southern character in "A Rose for Emily" with Harper Lee's in To Kill a Mockingbird.

  8. Compare the notions of past and present and refusal to change as presented in "A Rose for Emily" and "A Good Man Is Hard to Find."  [It would also be fun, perhaps, to compare and contrast the personalities of Emily and the grandmother in "Good Man."]]

Emily's Personality

  1. What factors shaped (or warped) Emily Grierson's personality?  Brainstorm a list of as many as you can think of; then pick out the five most influential forces and discuss them.
  2. "SOso" laments this assignment: If you were writing an obituary on Emily, what would you include? Remember that the town wasn't fond of her, so you don't have to write a glowing account of Emily's life.
  3. How does the narrator influence our attitudes about Emily as the story progresses?  Does our interpretation of the narrator's views change at any point when we do a second (or more) reading of the story?
  4. Write an obituary for Emily Grierson; considering the town's attitudes about her and the ending of the story, what tone would you take in the obituary?

Issues in "A Rose for Emily"

  1. T. Brown contributed this topic in 1999: Analyze and discuss the interactive role of society, status, and families in "Barn Burning" and "A Rose for Emily."
  2. P. Silluzio suggests: The structure of this story is very confusing. It's very hard to tell which order the events took place in. Why do you think Faulkner chose to do this and what significance does it have in the story?
  3. "Ngoclan" offers this assignment from a teacher: Evaluate whether or not the setting for the story was the best. How might a different setting have changed the action or events? Give some examples to prove your ideas.
  4. "qnam" had to face this assignment: "When we consider dramatic action, in contrast to exposition or explanatory writing, there seems to be one central dramatic scene in each of the 5 parts of the story. Are these scenes parallel in any way ? Do you think Faulkner was conscious of the overall structure of the story when he arranged his scenes in this way ?"

Classification Essays

  1. How is "A Rose for Emily" characteristic (or not) of "Southern Gothic" fiction?  For instance, compare and contrast "A Rose for Emily" with "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" (comparison passed on by "Isabella").
  2. Point of View: "qnam" also sent in this question: Certain key events in the story take place behind the closed doors of Emily's house. Most of what goes on inside the house is kept secret and Faulkner stops the reader as well as the townspeople pretty much at the front door with a few exceptions. Who tells the story ? How is the story strengthened by this handling of point of view ? Is this point of view consistent throughout the story ? Explain and give examples from the story to support your answer.  Does the narrator always use "we" or sometimes "I"?
  3. How is the role of the townspeople like and unlike that of a Greek chorus in a play like Oedipus Rex or Antigone? Then how is the role of the narrator like that of the "choragos," or leader of the ancient Greek chorus?
  4. J. Hicks (2002) suggested this topic: "Analyze Emily's relationships with two different categories of men -- caretakers and dominators. The caretakers will be Toby & Sartoris; the dominators are obviously her father and Homer."  

One-Act Play

For Legal Assisting, Pre-Law, and Drama students, or a team of these majors, or any interested students: 

Write "The Trial of Miss Emily Grierson," assuming that Tobe turned her in to the authorities at least 30 years before she died and the rose-colored bedroom was opened in the short story time line.  

  1. What defense would a turn-of-the-century defense attorney use to get Emily acquitted?  If you were her attorney, how would you establish her innocence and explain away the evidence against her?
  2. What prosecution points against Emily would count against her--in addition to the iron-gray hair?  
  3. Who would testify to what?  
  4. What deliberations would the jury of townspeople go through? 
  5. You might even involve a journalism student or someone who publishes a newsletter (or knows how) to do a mock-up of trial coverage, complete with court artist's sketch, perhaps.

Research Topics Related to "A Rose for Emily"

  1. Is any movie based on "A Rose for Emily"? (Alkesh, 1999)  There is a movie of this story called "A Rose for Emily" It was made in 1982 and stars Anjelica Huston.  But a search of the Internet Movie Database shows 20 titles related in some way to this story, mostly in English.  The 1982 version, if any, would turn up on videotape or DVD, but the movie is a "short," not a feature.  
  2. How is this story related to Faulkner's life?