The Characteristics of Southern Society in A Rose for Emily



The narrator, representing the Jefferson community, is lightly dismissive of Emily’s servant. He is seen merely as “an old man-servant–a combined gardener and cook” (Faulkner, I). He is not perceived to be a person in his own right, but only in terms of being Emily’s man-of-all-trades. He is casually referred to as “the old Negro,” (Faulkner, I) and “the Negro man” (Faulkner, IV). The narrator deliberately introduces Colonel Sartoris as the man “who fathered the edict that no Negro woman should appear on the streets without an apron-“(Faulkner, I). This serves to make the racial bias of Jefferson clear to the reader. The townspeople continue to be steeped in the old plantation attitude of superiority to their Negro servants. Again, Colonel Sartoris demonstrates his lingering racism by derogatorily referring to Tobe as “that nigger of hers” (Faulkner, II). The narrator echoes this disdain of Negroes when he relates the arrival of the workers to pave the streets, saying “The construction company came with riggers and mules and machinery” (Faulkner, III). Here, the Negroes are casually equated with the animals and the machinery. Again, as the narrator describes “the riggers singing in time to the rise and fall of picks” (Faulkner, III), the reader is graphically reminded of the chain-gangs of the old South. This outright racist attitude is echoed in Faulkner’s characterization of Tobe. Emily’s servant is introduced to the reader at the very beginning of the tale. However, the reader knows little or nothing more about him at the end. He remains only the servant who serves his mistress and continues “going in and out with a market basket” (Faulkner, II).