Analysis of William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily"

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Analysis of William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”

In “A Rose for Emily”, William Faulkner uses symbolism, imagery, simile and tone. Faulkner uses these elements to lead his characters to an epiphany of letting go of out-dated traditions and customs. The resistance to change and loneliness are prominent themes within “A Rose for Emily”. Faulkner uses “A Rose for Emily” to caution his readers that things are not always what they appear to be.

The tone of “A Rose for Miss Emily” could be described as one of complicity and guilt. Note how often Faulkner intrudes with the pronouns "our" and "we," throughout the story, even in the first sentence: "our whole town went to the funeral." (30). Guilt and complicity can be seen in the way Emily is treated while alive. Once part of a proud and wealthy Southern family, she is considered a "fallen monument" (Faulkner 30) when she dies. Mistreatment, in the form of negligence, “We did not even know she was sick” (Faulkner 34), eventually compounds their guilt after Emily's death. The pieces come together. She was lonely, needed help, not judgment and isolation. At the close of the story, Faulkner once again uses "we" to evoke the townsfolk’s' universal guilt: "For a long while we just stood there, looking down at the profound and fleshless grin.” (35).

The tone of the story also reflects Miss Emily’s resistance to change. The resistance to change in “A Rose for Emily” is symbolized first by the state of the Grierson home. It stands unkempt among a neighborhood that has forged into the present. Faulkner uses imagery to symbolize both Miss Emily’s and the South’s decay through the Grierson house. The narrator says of the house: “It was a big, squarish frame house that 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. But garages and cotton gins had encroached...
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