Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the major themes in “A Rose for Emily” and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “A Rose for Emily” at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: Diagnosing Miss Emily in “A Rose for Emily”
Miss Emily Grierson, the title character in the story “A Rose for Emily," is certainly a bizarre character. Withdrawn from society, trapped in a world of delusions, Emily never receives any psychiatric treatment, but she definitely exhibits symptoms indicative of mental illness. By examining Emily’s behavior and her social relationships, it is possible to diagnose Emily with a mental illness. Although her community never thought Emily was “crazy," she was indeed a very ill person. If you're having trouble identifying signs of mental illness in Miss Emily, this psychological character analysis of Emily will be quite helpful.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: The Role of Community in “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner
In “A Rose for Miss Emily," the entire community conspires—albeit unconsciously—to protect both Miss Emily and the small town from the shame and stigma of Miss Emily’s illness and idiosyncratic behavior. By examining the different behaviors and statements of the members of the community, the reasons for their denial will be identified and analyzed. It will be argued that the community is highly invested in protecting their identity as an upstanding, traditional Southern community. Even though their behavior is dysfunctional, it is adaptive for their purposes.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: The Importance of Physical Place in “A Rose for Emily”
There is the macrocosmic setting of the South that lends a sense of place, both physical and psychological, to “A Rose for Emily," as well as the microcosmic setting of the house in which Emily has spent most of her adult life in bed with the corpse of her fiance. Both places are critical and are used to reinforce the psychological landscape of the story. By examining both of these settings—the macrocosmic and the microcosmic—the writer will explain how physical place contextualizes and emphasizes psychological place.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: The Effect of the Omniscient, Anonymous Narrator in “A Rose for Emily”
One of the interesting techniques that Faulkner used to develop “A Rose for Emily" was his use of an unnamed narrator whose relationship to Emily and whose role in the life of the town is somewhat ambiguous. Still, the reader cannot help but be struck by the way in which the narrator tells the story of the strange Miss Emily, constantly using the word “we" to describe the feelings of the townspeople and their suspicions of Miss Emily. In this essay, the effect of this narrative style will be examined through close textual analysis.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic # 5: The Role of “The Negro" in “A Rose for Emily
One of the only townspeople to have contact with Miss Emily during her years of isolation is an older African American man who never speaks but who nonetheless plays a critical role in the development of the story. Though he is asked what happens inside the house, he never discloses any of Miss Emily’s private behavior, despite its eccentricity. The writer will analyze the character of the Negro, who is unnamed, and the importance that he has in the story’s development. The writer will also speculate on the reasons for his secrecy.
For more a more extensive understanding of a few of these themes in “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner, check out the helpful articles A Psychological Character Analysis of Faulkner's Miss Emily and Comparison of Themes in “A Rose for Emily" “The Yellow Wallpaper" and “Sweat"
This list of important quotations from “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from Faulkner's “A Rose for Emily” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements for “A Rose for Emily” above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text they are referring to.
“Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town…." (47)
“I’d be the last one in the world to bother Miss Emily…." (50)
“Dammit, sir…will you accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad " (51)
“The day after [her father’s] death, all the ladies prepared to call at the house and offer condolence and aid, as is our custom. Miss Emily met them at the door,… with no trace of grief on her face. She told them that her father was not dead. She did that for three days…. " (52)
“We did not say she was crazy then. We believed she had to do that." (52)
“She carried her head high enough—even when we believed that she was fallen." (53)
“[T]he law requires you tell what you are going to use [the arsenic] 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." (54)
“So the next day we all said, ‘She will kill herself’ and we said it would be the best thing." (55)
“Thus she passed from generation to generation—dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse." (57)
“The Negro met the first of the ladies at the front door and let them in… and then he disappeared. He walked right through the house and out the back and was not seen again." (58)
Reference: Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily." Selected Short Stories. New York: Modern Library, 1993.