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A Rose for Emily This is a story that clearly shows how time ticks away and how some people are willing tome on with the changing of times and some people resist. The small town of Jefferson was full of an up and coming generation that wanted change but was still influenced by the old traditions and by the few old timers that just couldnt let it go. As the Civil War came to an end the New South began its birth and the Old South began its death. The story actually begins at the end with the funeral of Miss Emily Grierson -the last of the august names. (Faulkner 433) Daniel Bronson, in his essay Like the Sand of the Hourglass... , writes, She had been raised to be a Southern Belle, an upstanding member of society, and she clung to her world of the Old South. (433) Throughout the story the narrator uses an ebb and flow of time to reveal details of Miss Emily's life and the extremes she was willing to pursue to hold on to the past. Emily surrounded herself with reminders of the past. Miss Emily's house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps. (Faulkner 426) Everything around the old Grierson homestead changed giving it an awkward prominence over its surroundings.
Emily's reply to the mayor about her due taxes were written on paper of an archaic shape, in a thin, flowing calligraphy in faded ink which had been used in early years. The black clothing she wore, which was significant of one in mourning, and the old style watch that hung around her neck were no longer fashionable. Emily employed a Negro long after slavery was abolished because she grew up having slaves waiting on her. The evidence of Emily's resistance to change was also revealed by her inability to accept the death of her father. She met them at the door, dressed as usual and with no trace of grief on her face. She told them that her father was not dead. (Faulkner 428) It took them three days to talk Miss Emily into letting them dispose of the body. (Faulkner 428) Even after the father figure was gone he held his place as head of the home.
His portrait displayed on a tarnished gilt easel gives further insight on how long the lady had been holding onto the past (Faulkner 426). The storys narrator goes on to explain how Emily refuses to accept that new people are now running the town. When Emily started getting a tax notice she was incessant that they check with Colonel Sartoris, who had been dead already for ten years (Faulkner 427). She could not hear them say he was dead. She even made comment about the sheriff, Perhaps he considers himself sheriff (Faulkner 427). Now we have Emily Grierson in denial of times passing and changes taking place but we also have the situations in which she overtly attempts to stop time from moving forward.
After meeting Homer Barron, Miss Emily feels she has found someone of the past, after all he was a soldier in the Civil War. Her attraction to Homer was significant in the fact that he was a strong authoritarian type like her father was. Rather than be abandoned again she came up with a way to stop the hands of time and save face in the community. The narrator eludes to the town people having pity for Miss Emily. In the beginning of the story she is referred to as a fallen monument, and later as a duty and a care (Faulkner 425 - 26). Though Miss Emily did quite enough to trap time in a bottle the Jefferson townsfolk did as much.
Colonel Sartoris was the first mentioned that bent the rules for the namesake. The little white lie kept Emily in a time warp that snowballed as the years passed by. Even when her house smelled of rotting human flesh she was catered to because of the older more traditional manners people had of women in a high position. At the city gathering the younger generation was all for simply walking up to and knocking on Miss Emily's door and asking her to please take care of that morbid smell whereas the older judge acted on his southern gentleman upbringing when he said, will you accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad? (Faulkner 427). Emily was even able to by the poison, with which she killed Homer, without having to sign for it like anyone else would have had to do. Miss Emily Grierson held on to her past until her death.
As Bronson stated, Miss Emily retained her sense of her dignity and her private version of the world of the Old south for the rest of her life (Bronson 436). She kept Homer for more than forty years without anyone ever knowing. She was able to live and die in the same house she was born in. Until the end she held her head high as if her family were still as prominent as they were before the Civil War. The citizens of Jefferson though changing were still intermingled with old and new. As the new generation attempted to move into a more modern time they were still grasping backwards, holding on to the past with a fascination that never let it completely fade.
Symbols convey special meanings to the reader throughout literary genres. William Faulkner, a regional writer, employs symbolism in a good amount of his works. Faulkner utilizes conventional symbols, allegories, and unconventional symbols. In " A Rose for Emily, " Faulkner uses unconventional symbols. Symbols provide greater understanding of the setting, help define the aura of Miss Emily's character, and play a crucial role in revealing the story's theme. Symbols equip the reader with ample understanding of the setting.
Endearing characters unveil the true thought behind Faulkner's choice of setting. The central character Miss Emily Grierson, a true Southern Belle, brings the Old South back to life. Miss Emily, like the fallen South turns into, "a monument", " a tradition, a duty, and a care, " upon the town. Once Miss Emily's father passes on and leaves her the last Grierson she wants more recognition, respect, and the legacy of a grand monument, " It was as if she [Emily] demanded more than ever the recognition of her dignity as the last Grierson; as if it had wanted that touch of earthiness to reaffirm her imperviousness" (Faulkner, 30). The South yearns for the acknowledgment of her dignity after the North took her beauty. Homer Barron, a Yankee workman, comes to build new sidewalks in Jefferson and a courtship with Miss Emily ensues.
Homer, like the North to the South, comes to modernize the town, " The construction company came with niggers and mules and machinery, and a foreman named Homer Barron, a Yankee" (Faulkner, 29). Perhaps symbolic of Sherman's March, Homer alters Miss Emily's concept of the past and moves on his way. Homer Barron represents the barren condition the South finds herself in after the Civil War. Miss Emily and the South reluctant to admit defeat hold on to the past. Consequently Miss Emily, like a narrow-minded ostrich with her head in the sand, shuts out the present allowing time to go on without her. Symbolism helps the reader discern Miss Emily's aura.
Stubborn in her ways of the Old South, Miss Emily refuses to modernize. Miss Emily and her home, once a real life Scarlet and Tara, stand alone among new technology. Resulting in Miss Emily and her home showing their age, " But garages and cotton gins had encroached and obliterated even the august names of that neighborhood; only Miss Emily's house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and gasoline pumps" (Faulkner, 26 - 7). Likewise Miss Emily, once strong and attractive, now stands decaying. Moreover, the town watches Miss Emily, an archaic yet enchanting woman fade to the past.
Similar to the way the North may have seen the South. Miss Emily and her home represent a grandiose era that has fallen away, leaving them an amusement to visitors. A glance at true Southern heritage, that finds itself gone with the wind. Miss Emily's aura unearths the theme through symbols. Symbols play a pivotal role in discovering the theme. Miss Emily has no need for things of the present, and remains constant in her Southern Belle ways.
Once around Miss Emily, the past glory of the Old South comes alive. In her home time falls away and appears nonexistent, " Then they could hear the invisible watch ticking at the end of the gold chain" (Faulkner, 27). Miss Emily tries to stop time and resist change, however her attempts fail. When Homer threatens to leave for good, Miss Emily stops him.
In the manner one preserves a rose for beauty, Miss Emily preserves Homer for love. Although Miss Emily tries to stop the clock and refuse change, time goes on: The violence of breaking down the door seemed to fill this room with pervading dust. A thin, acrid pall as of the tomb seemed to lie everywhere upon this room decked and furnished as for a bridal: upon the valance curtains of faded rose color, upon the rose-shaded lights, upon the dressing table, upon the delicate array of crystal and the man's toilet things backed with tarnished silver, silver so tarnished that the monogram was obscured. Among them lay collar and tie, as if they had just been removed, which, lifted, left upon the surface a pale crescent in the dust. Upon a chair hung the suit, carefully folded; beneath it the two mute shoes and the discarded socks. (Faulkner, 32) Despite Miss Emily's best efforts to stop time and retain Homer, the room gathers dust and ages. Even Miss Emily's Homer rots and decays a victim of the passage of time.
She too falls prey to time as she ages and eventually passes away. Not even tenacious Miss Emily could hold the past in the present. Symbols play a central role for many reasons. Insight into how symbols function in A Rose for Emily seems essential to comprehending the story. The story revolves around the Old South setting. Miss Emily's character creates conflict by holding on to the past.
Furthermore, the theme arises from understanding Miss Emily and the significance of the setting. Grasping Faulkner's symbolism results in understanding A Rose for Emily. Words: 1750 Bibliography: Faulkner, William. A Rose for Emily The Norton Introduction to Literature shorter 8 th ed.
Jerome Beaty, et al. New York: London, 2002. 425 - 432. Bronson, Daniel. Like the Sand of the Hourglass...
The Norton Introduction to Literature Shorter 8 th ed. Jerome Beaty, et al. New York: London, 2002. 433 - 36.
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