A comparative essay on the use of symbolism in William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily."
Authors traditionally use symbolism as a way to represent the sometimes intangible qualities of the characters, places, and events in their works. In his short story "A Rose for Emily," William Faulkner uses symbolism to compare the Grierson house with Emily Grierson's physical deterioration, her shift in social standing, and her reluctancy to accept change.
When compared chronologically, the Grierson house is used to symbolize Miss Emily's physical attributes. In its prime, the Grierson house is described as "white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies" (Faulkner 69). This description suggests that the house was built not only for function, but also to impress and engage the attention of the other townspeople. Similarly, the wealthy women of the era, Emily Grierson not withstanding, were dressed in a conspicuous manner. This, for the most part, is because their appearance was perceived as a direct reflection on their husbands and/or fathers. This display of extravagance was egotistically designed by men to give an impression of wealth to onlookers. Emily was regarded by her father as property. Her significance to him was strongly ornamental, just as their overly lavish home was. As the plot progresses, the reader is clearly made aware of the physical decline of both the house and Miss Emily. Just as the house is described as "smelling of dust and disuse," evidence of Emily's own aging is given when her voice in similarly said to be "harsh, and rusty, as if from disuse" (70-74). Ultimately, at the time of Emily's death, the house is seen by the townspeople as "an eyesore among eyesores," and Miss Emily is regarded as a "fallen monument" (69). Both are empty, and lifeless. Neither are even remotely representative of their former splendor.