In "A Rose for Emily," William Faulkner's use of setting and characterization foreshadows and builds up to the climax of the story. His use of metaphors prepares the reader for the bittersweet ending. A theme of respectability and the loss of, is threaded throughout the story. Appropriately, the story begins with death, flashes back to the past and hints towards the demise of a woman and the traditions of the past she personifies. Faulkner has carefully crafted a multi-layered masterpiece, and he uses setting, characterization, and theme to move it along.
Miss Emily's house as the setting of the story is a perfect metaphor for the events occurring during that time period. It portrays the decay of Miss Emily's life and values and of the southern way of life and their clash with the newer generations. The house is situated in what was once a prominent neighborhood that has now deteriorated. Miss Emily's "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 of an earlier time," now looked awkward surrounded by "cotton wagons" and "gasoline pumps." The townspeople consider it "an eyesore among eyesores." Time has taken a similar role with Miss Emily altering her appearance from that of a "slender figure in white" (624) to that of "a small, fat woman in black" (622). The setting of Faulkner's story defines Miss Emily's tight grasp of ante-bellum ways and unchanging demeanor.. Through her refusal to put "metal numbers above her door and attach a mail box" to her house she is refusing to change with society. Miss Emily's attitude towards change is reflected in a personification of her house with "it's stubborn and coquettish decay." Just as the house seems to reject progress and updating, so does Miss Emily, until inevitably both of them become decaying symbols of their dying...
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