Built during or just after the Reconstruction Era in the 1870s, the Grierson family house
, passed down from Emily’s father
to his daughter, was once grand and lovely, an embodiment of Southern pride, and built in a style of ornate architecture of which defiantly recalls the plantation houses of the Old South from before the Civil War. This house and those like it are monuments that symbolize for the townspeople
of Jefferson the glorified aristocratic past of the South. But the house is also a more complex symbol than that. It is, after all, physically decaying—the narrator even calls it “an eyesore”—and the highly respected neighborhood in which the house is located is being encroached upon by garages and cotton gins, structures of industrialization, signs of cultural and social progress. As such, the house also comes to symbolize just how untenable the culture of the Old South is, its moral ugliness in its foundation on slavery and its irrelevance in the face of the modern world—a world increasingly reliant not on agriculture but industry, a world that increasingly holds not aristocratic but democratic values. However, as ugly as the house is on the outside, the inside is pure ghastliness and nightmare, a literal tomb where Homer Barron
’s corpse rots. In this, its condition reflects that of Miss Emily
herself: more and more impoverished as the years pass, more and more decrepit, both house and owner present merely a proud face to the public which conceals eccentric desires and dreadful secrets within. Moreover, Faulkner is suggesting that the Southerners’ attempt to freeze time and in some ways relive their Confederate past is, at its core, as profoundly unnatural and grotesque as Miss Emily
’s preservation of her dead sweetheart; it is in this way that his story breaks down the walls of Southern nostalgia to reveal the social and moral harms thereof.