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Symbolism in A Rose For Emily

William Faulkner (1897-1962) was a southern writer; he spent most of his time in Oxford, Mississippi. “A Rose For Emily” was a vehicle for him to write about the South and the old ways of the South. He was a well respected writer. In 1950 he received the Nobel Prize for Literature. faulkner uses symbolism to make his message stronger. Faulkner uses symbolism as a way to repersent the qualities of the character, places and events in his work.

Emily came from a well to do family that had alot of history in the town. The Grierson’s were so powerful, Emily did not have to pay taxes. The whole townspeople seemed to think taht they were snobby because in Emily’s father’s eyes, none of the men were quite good enough for Emily. Unfortunately, Emily turned out to be a lonely old woman because of her father’s influence. in “A Rose for Emily”, Faulkner uses the element of time to enhance details of the setting and vice versa.

By avoiding chronological order of events of Miss Emily’s life, Faulkner first gives the reader a completed puzzle, and then allows the reader to examine the puzzle piece by piece. By doing so he enhances the story and presents two different perspectives of time held by the characters such as, the world of the present and, the world of tradition and the past-“confusing time with it’s mathematical progression… divided from them by the narrow bottleneck of the most recent decade of years”(Faulkner 35-36).

Faulkner uses symbolic elements to compare the Grierson house with Emily’s life- “lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps-an eyesore among eyesores”(Faulkner 29). This is expressed by the symbolism of the decaying house, which is like Miss Emily’s physical and mental deterioration. Emily’s life like the house, suffers from lack of love and care. The message that Faulkner presented in “A Rose For Emily” was strongly supported by symbolism. Faulkner compares the Grierson house with Emily and her life.

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StudyBoss » William Faulkner » Symbolism in A Rose For Emily

Symbolism in “A Rose for Emily”

In the short story, “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner, symbolism is used very frequently through out the story. There are several different symbolic subjects in this story such as the house, Miss Emily as a “monument,” Homer and the “Yankee” views, and Miss Emily’s old Negro servant who represents death in the story. In many different ways, symbolism has a very deep and underlying insight to the story of “A Rose for Emily”. Miss Emily is compared to her house in many different ways.

Descriptions of the decaying house symbolize Miss Emily’s physical and emotional decay, and as well as her mental problems. The representation between herself and her house is shown through constant neglect and unappreciation. In one point that Faulkner makes, the house is described to be stubborn and unrelenting, as Miss Emily is also portrayed on many occasions. Examples of her stubbornness is not letting the “new guard” attach metal numbers above her door when the town began to receive free mail service, when she refuses to believe that her father is dead, and refuses to pay her taxes.

Just as the house seems to reject progress and updating, so does Miss Emily, until both of them become decaying symbols of their dying generation. Miss Emily also represents the “Old South”. Her southern heritage and points of view are represented through her actions. Her stubbornness and unrelenting attitude are very strong characteristics of the Southern heritage. She refused to believe that the times were changing and refused to change into the new society. The Southern heritage is also represented through Miss Emily’s strict and repetitive ways.

The story basically addresses the changes in the South after the Civil War. Miss Emily is considered a “monument” of Southern manners and an ideal of past values. The Old South generations were deteriorating very rapidly by changing traditions, and as well as mannerisms. When Miss Emily died, her and her house both become symbols of their dying generation. Homer Barron is the representative of the Yankee attitudes toward the Griersons and also toward the entire South.

The South is known for being traditional, and the North is known for being very adaptable to change. Homer Barron was from the North and also represented “the next generation with it’s more modern ideas” (Faulkner 315). In some stories, Negroes sometimes represent death. In the short story, “ A Rose for Emily,” the color black is symbolic for death, as well as depression and gloom. Death is very prevalent in this story through the deaths of her father, Homer Barron, and herself in the end.

A Rose for Emily” contains many examples of strong symbolism throughout the story. This short story contains a high rate of symbolism, which is thoroughly distributed and revealed throughout the entire story. Because Miss Emily refuses to accept the changing times, she symbolizes a completely different era than in which the town she lived in. Symbolism is very prominent throughout the story, and plays one of the biggest roles in the underlying meaning of the entire story.

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