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William Faulkner's A Rose for Emily is a wonderful short story that begins with the funeral of the main character, Emily Grierson. Faulkner uses an anonymous narrator that is considered to be the voice of the town and tells the story out of chronological order. The story basically uses the life of Emily Grierson as an allegory for the changes in the post-bellum South after the Civil War. Through the use of a series of symbols, such as Emily's house, hair, clothing, and even Emily's rose, Faulkner illustrates the collapse of the post-bellum South. The characteristics of Miss Emily's house symbolize her appearance as she becomes decrepit with time and neglect. The house had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies, set on what had once been our most select street (325).
Then it became an eyesore among eyesores (325). Miss Emily changed the same ways as her house did and she too became an eyesore. She had once been a slender figure in white (327) and later she becomes bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water with eyes lost in the fatty ridges of her face (326). During Miss Emily's death she had been referred to as a fallen monument (325), which could mean she was once something beautiful and affluent but with time she grew old and impoverished. These same changes from affluence to impoverishment occurred in the South after the Civil War. There are many symbols that direct you to believe Miss Emily is still living in her post bellum era when she was in her prime with her father.
She will not allow the town to put a house number on her home for the free postal service. She also tells the tax collectors to talk to Colonel Sartorius (who has been dead for ten years) to resolve her problem that she doesnt pay taxes. This is also shown with Emily's very few words she used to persuade the druggist to get the arsenic poison. Another particular symbol that exemplifies Miss Emily's ignorance and stubbornness towards time is her watch. This example involves Emily as an old woman with her gold watch around her neck. The watch hung so low that her belt hid it.
It was described by the narrator as the invisible watch ticking at the end of her gold chain (326). This shows Miss Emily's, maybe even shows the Souths neglect of time and yearning to live in the past. Miss Emily's hair is used as a symbol throughout Faulkner's tale. In the part III, shortly after her fathers death her hair changed to a short hairstyle that was being described by the narrator as looking angelic.
This could possibly symbolize the freedom she occurred after her strict fathers death. She probably would have never changed her hairstyle if her father were around, or maybe wouldnt be allowed. As Emily grows older her hair color changes to iron-gray, like that of an active man (329). The color symbolizes her stubbornness not to change; this is shown because iron a really strong metal that doesnt bend easily, or in other words is stubborn. Emily's stubbornness is further supported with her parallels with her house, when the narrator personifies the house as being stubborn and coquettish (315). All of these traits were most probably acquired from her father who Emily loved so dearly.
Her father is noted by scaring off all the guys that wanted to be with her. Emily is described by Faulkner himself as a young girl with a young girls normal aspiration to find love and then a husband and a family, who was brow-beaten and kept down by her father (324 - 25). Now you are probably wondering what the rose in the title symbolizes. Well this is the most whacked ending that includes Emily murdering her sweetheart that went away (326). This is when all the smells developed and the townspeople put lime in her basement. This is symbolic because lime is usually put in the ground before the coffin of the deceased is placed in the ground.
The rose for Emily was the room where she neatly placed the body of Homer Barron (her sweetheart), or possibly just Homer himself. The room was described as having rose-shaded lights (330) and the curtains giving off a faded rose color (330). Knowing from having a girlfriend, many women like to dry out their roses in order to keep them forever, maybe in Emily's distorted mind she wanted to keep Homer forever. She kept good care of him, which is exemplified by her dressing Homer in nightclothes and laying him on the bed. There was even a iron gray hair found on the indented pillow next to him signifying Emily laying next to Homer (331). Faulkner uses crafty symbolism for the sake of the story itself, and also takes it a step further by using the changes of Emily Grierson as an allegory for the changes in the post-bellum South.
Creatively Faulkner uses the unordered chronology to set the stage of the fallen South, which just wants to keep holding on the past when it reigned. Works Cited Faulkner, William. A Rose for Emily. Handout. 324 - 31.
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Research essay sample on Symbolism In A Rose For Emily By Faulkner