Rose for Emily

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Symbolism in “A Rose For Emily”

Symbols are present in almost everything we read. In some cases they are used to mystify what the author is trying to get across. In other cases symbols can be just plain confusing. In William Faulkner’s short story, “A Rose For Emily,” symbols are abundant across the pages in this erie tale. Some symbols are obvious for their meanings and others are somewhat mind-boggling. Faulkner’s insertion of these plentiful symbols gives this story a deeper meaning and forces the reader to really think about this literature and question why the author would place such devices in the story.

One of the most obvious and present symbols in this short story is Emily’s house. It appears many times throughout the story and represents many symbolic points. It is easy to see that the house represents Emily herself. In the beginning, like Emily, the house had once been new and beautiful, “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.” With time, the house began to appear weathered and run down along with it’s tenant. It is described as “ an eyesore among eyesores.” The house did not fit in with the changing society and neither did Emily.

Near the end of Emily’s life she is seen less and less until one day she is never seen to leave the safe environment of her house. Eventually Emily’s spirit and heart became so tired and worn she shut herself off from the outside world. In doing so, “she had evidently shut up the top floor of her house.” Near the end of the story this action of Emily’s begins to make sense when the reader finds out that she had been keeping Homer’s dead body in her bedroom. She had left the man she had loved in the bedroom, and in doing so she had left her heart in the bedroom. In locking up the top half of he house, she had closed off her heart and soul to the rest of the world. This represented Emily finally giving up and letting go.

As readers know, Emily went through her life without ever being free. She felt restrained by her father and then trapped herself inside her own house for emotional protection. A symbol for Emily’s entrapment was surprisingly the “vigorous iron grey” colour of her hair. Faulkner’s purpose in using the word iron, instead of simply grey, was to represent iron prison bars. As Emily grew older - and her hair in turn became more grey-she continued to feel increasingly imprisoned within herself. This may be because she felt betrayed by her father and his over protective personality, never allowing her to live her life. This may be because she was so deeply hurt by the love of her life Homer, knowing that he would never marry her. She did not know how to live her life normally and now felt that she was running out of time to find peace within herself and all the betrayal in her life, causing the overwhelming feeling of imprisonment.

Emily struggled with her father’s over bearing protective nature not only in life, but in death as well. At Emily’s funeral, she was unable to escape, “her father musing profoundly above the bier.” This symbolizes the level of protectiveness her father had over the isolated girl. While he was still alive Mr. Grierson watched over his daughter like an eagle, never letting her too far out of sight and controlling her like a puppet. He was described as, “ a spraddled silhouette in the foreground...his back to her and clutching a horse whip,” making him sound daunting and very intimidating.

Finally, a symbol that pertained many interpretations to it; the title, “A Rose For Emily”. To start, one way a rose may be interpreted is to represent eternal and everlasting love. Because of the way Emily’s father sheltered her from the world of love and socialization, she was never able to fully understand love. When her father passed and she met Homer, she found love within him. As the story progresses, the readers...
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