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The Idea of Racism Portrayed in William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”

In modern American culture, racism remains to be a big challenge. Regardless of some progress in the past years, prejudice, bias, and racial discrimination continue to affect people and communities, causing inequalities in numerous arenas like healthcare, employment, education, and criminal justice (Bickford III and Clabough 110). In American culture today, racism plays out in many forms, from personal acts of bias to systematic racism. For example, current cases of police ferocity against African-Americans, anti-Semitic attacks, and Asian hate crimes reveal the prevalence of racial prejudice and bias in American society. In addition, the COVID-19 epidemic also uncovered and worsened racial discrimination in health care, with non-whites disproportionately impacted by the pandemic because of systematic inequalities in access to medication and social health factors.

However, American society is implementing strategic measures to combat racism. Although the issue of racism is intricate, resolving it requires joint action from all members of society toward an inclusive society. Various efforts to address racism have been put in place in various public sectors, such as social justice movements, politics, healthcare, and education (Wiltz et al. 96). For instance, there have been calls for inclusion, equity, and diversity in areas such as workplaces, education, and reforms in criminal justice systems and law enactment to lessen racial disparity and promote accountability. In a nutshell, racism is one of the prevalent challenges in American culture, and addressing it demands a sustained and concerted effort from everyone in American society. While measures have been put in place to mitigate racism across various places, such as education and justice systems, much still needs to be done to ensure justice and racial fairness in America.

In the short story “A Rose for Emily,” William Faulkner discusses the themes of isolation, classism, and racism. The story’s setting is South America, where racial discrimination is rampant. Faulkner presents the issue of racism prevalent in the American culture through a Black-American character, Tobe. Tobe is Emily’s servant, portrayed as a subservient character dedicated to Emily and her family. However, Tobe is ill-handled by whites in this story. For instance, when Emily passes, the white men in the town ask Tobe to allow them access into the house in an impolite and disdainful manner, “the Negro met the first of the ladies at the front door and let them in, with their hushed, sibilant voices and their quick, curious glances, and then he disappeared. He walked through the house and out the back and was not seen again (Faulkner 8).” This shows the racial hierarchy present in the society and how whites view Tobe as a simple servant instead of perceiving him as a typical human who deserves to be esteemed. In addition, racism is also seen when black people are consistently referred to in derogatory terms like ‘niggers,’ and are portrayed as of a lower rank and less significance compared to whites. For instance, when Emily’s dad dies, African American servants are denied entry through the house’s front door into the funeral, and they are forced to use the kitchen door.

Moreover, the author’s depiction of Tobe emphasizes inequity deeply rooted in Southern society. Another place racism is portrayed when the narrator says, “Only a man of Colonel Sartoris’ generation and thought could have invented it, and only a woman could have believed it (Faulkner 2).” Here, the white officials hold false and outdated beliefs about Miss Emily Grierson; they view her as a remnant of the past. Consequently, this reveals how racism is prolonged via cultural stereotypes and assumptions.

Miss Emily is also isolated from the rest of the town, “That was two years after her father’s death and a short time after her sweetheart — the one we believed would marry her — had deserted her. After her father’s death, she went out very little; after her sweetheart left, people hardly saw her (Faulkner 3).” Her isolation is because of her class status, which underscores how race contributed to her exile from the community. Moreover, Homer Barron, Emily’s romantic interest, is perceived as a threat to the Southern norms since he is a Northern worker. This shows that regionality and ethnicity were critical in Emily and Homer’s extermination from the town.

The connection between racial disparity in the real world and the racism conveyed by William Faulkner in “A Rose for Emily” is that Faulkner’s portrayal of racism imitates the racial dynamics of the American South in the period in which the story is set. Literary critics claim that Faulkner’s views about racism are relevant when the story is set. His story is majorly centered on class divisions and racism in Southern America. While his ideas do not apply to racism in American culture today, by exposing the injustices prolonged by systems of power in the American South, Faulkner invites the audience to reflect on how racial discrimination shapes the modern world.

The people in American society have complex views about racism. While some acknowledge that racism is a persistent challenge that constantly affects people and communities, others state that racism is no longer a pervasive challenge in American culture. Therefore, William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” critiques this latter perspective. His portrayal of the American racial hierarchy highlights the prevalence of racism in American society. For instance, his portrayal of Tobe indicates how people of color were perceived inferior in the South. Likewise, how he explores class divisions shows how white privilege was intertwined within the society, additionally embedding oppressive systems.

Faulkner’s ideology of racism can be lined with the perceptions of those who acknowledge that racism is a dominant challenge in American culture. Ibrahim X. Kendi, an American author, claims that racism results from systematic problems that need active initiatives to pull to pieces. Kendi’s position aligns with Faulkner’s view and pinpoints how systematic racism disseminates injustice and inequality (Crane-Mauzy 6). In short, while American society is intricate with racism, Faulkner gives a strong censure of those who downplay the omnipresence of racial injustice.

The author’s position about racism in “A Rose for Emily” is intricate. Faulkner conveys the racial hierarchy and racism that prevailed in the American South during the story’s setting. Generally, Faulkner’s depiction of racism and how Tobe is treated in this story shows that he acknowledges the pervasiveness of racial injustice in Southern society during that time. But, he also conveys a nuanced perspective of the issues, recognizing the intricacy of the socioeconomic factors that led to the perpetuation of racism in this part of the world.

My position about racism is that racism is a multipart and deeply engrained social problem that has had and will continue to have devastating consequences on people and societies globally. Therefore, everyone across the globe must be conscious of how racism operates in our societies so that they can actively participate in ripping to pieces oppressive systems and endorse inclusion, justice, and equality for everyone.

In conclusion, Faulkner presents racism as a persistent issue in “A Rose for Emily.” Emily Grierson is the story’s protagonist. She is a white lady from an influential family whose sense of power is compared with the racism directed at the African Americans in the Southern town. The story’s themes of racism and discrimination illustrate the destructive impacts of racism and its continuing effect on society.

Work Cited

Faulkner, William, John Carradine, and Anjelica Huston. A rose for Emily. Paderborn, De: Verlag F. Schöningh, 1958.

Crane-Mauzy, Jilly E. “Political Theory, Activism, and Visual Media: The Ideology of Protest Symbols.” (2023).

Bickford III, John H., and Jeremiah Clabough. “A guided history into racist curriculum, pedagogy, and policy: Then and now.” The Social Studies 113.3 (2022): 109-124.

Wiltz, Jennifer L., et al. “Racial and ethnic disparities in receipt of medications for treatment of COVID-19—United States, March 2020–August 2021.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 71.3 (2022): 96.


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