"A Rose for Emily"
William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" is a very complex story. This short story was Faulkner's "first sale of a short story to a national magazine: Forum" (Skei, 84). Faulkner, born in Mississippi, "began to construct his fictional chronicle of Yoknapatawpha County, (which is) often based directly on the history of his own Lafayette County" (Inge, 136). This is the setting of "A Rose for Emily." Also, Faulkner based the character of Colonel Satoris on his great-grandfather, "Colonel William Clark Falkner" (Inge, 136). Colonel William Clark Falkner had a literary reputation also. He wrote The White Rose of Memphis" (Inge, 136). However, Falkner's talent was not inherited. "He became friends with a young Oxford lawyer named Phil Stone, a graduate of Yale University and a man of somewhat cultivated literary taste, who would provide him with some of the first reading material that would shape his talent" (Inge, 136). Faulkner started out writing poems, then novels, and then short stories. When Forum bought "A Rose for Emily," it gave Faulkner encouragement to keep writing short stories. "A Rose for Emily" may not be Faulkner's best short story, but the characteristics it holds make it a famous story. In "A Rose for Emily," Faulkner places importance in three different elements: characterization, symbolism, and theme. Each of these helps explain the story very vividly, almost to the point one might feel a part of it.
Characterization is a very important element in "A Rose for Emily." The protagonist of the story is Miss Emily. The antagonists of the story are Miss Emily's father, the community, the druggist, and the new Aldermen. There are also a few flat characters, which are Homer, old lady Wyatt, Colonel Satoris, Judge Stevens, and the minister and his wife. Faulkner's vivid description of Miss Emily at the different times of her life shows how she has changed throughout the years and makes the story easier to understand.
Miss Emily is described at several different times of her life. At one time, (about two years after her father's death) she is described as
"a small, fat woman in black... Her skeleton was small and spare; perhaps that was why what would have been merely plumpness in another was obesity in her. She looked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water, and of that pallid hue. Her eyes... looked like two small pieces of coal pressed into a lump of dough..." (Faulkner, 282-283).
Therefore, it is understood that Miss Emily, at this point, is short and fat. Also, at this same point, her voice is described as "dry and cold" (Faulkner, 283). Dry means not enough water. That could be compared to and because of Miss Emily not having enough contact with other people and not feeling loved or needed. Cold is paralleled with winter-time; winter is the last of the four seasons. Miss Emily is now in the last season, or winter, of her life. Just the two words describing her voice shows a lot about Miss Emily at this point in her life. When she was younger and her father was still alive, Miss Emily was a lot different. As compared to her after her father died, being "a small, fat woman in black," she is described in her younger years as "a slender figure in white" (Faulkner, 284). This vast difference indicates how much Miss Emily has changed. Although, a lot has changed over her years, she seemed to always think very highly of herself. "She carried her head high enough-even when we believed that she was fallen" (Faulkner, 286). This characteristic was probably learned from her father; remember he thought his daughter was too good for the men of Jefferson. Miss Emily, for the most part, was isolated; isolated from the community, friends, change, and most of all, life. Miss Emily's character, as seen from the text of the story, is very vividly described, both her personality and her physical traits.
Symbolism is used a lot and shows much importance in "A Rose...