"Compassion and Forgiveness" is another major theme that we can find in almost any Faulkner story. At first, it might not be apparent in this case. We almost have to be told that these sentiments are behind "A Rose for Emily" before we can see them. The story can seem downright cruel, the characters wholly unsympathetic, and the plot gross. When we begin to see the magnitude of the tragedy, and its impact on multiple generations, we understand the story is a call for understanding. The story seems to argue that forgiveness, compassion, and understanding can only come by facing the facts of the past and the present, which are tangled up together in an tight knot. Faulkner is both mercilessly subtle, and painfully blunt in this story, but we can feel the spirit of compassion rushing through.
By showing us that Emily is insane, Faulkner gives us space to feel compassion for her, and to forgive her for her crime.
True compassion for criminals involves allowing them to face their crimes and their punishments on the legal record – that the town failed to allow Emily this process shows their lack of true compassion for her.