A Rose for Emily
By William Faulkner
The possible meanings of both the title and the chronology of William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” have been debated for years. What is not under debate is that the chronology deliberately manipulates and delays the reader’s final judgment of Emily Grierson by altering the evidence. In the same way, the title reveals as much as the debate over what the rose means. The only rose that Emily actually receives is the rose in the title, which the author gives her. Just as the story’s chronology is a masterpiece of subtle insinuations, so is the title in its implications for the structure of the story.
Recognition of the meaning of the rose in the title requires some understanding of the significance a rose carried for a young woman in the South in the late 1800s, and for that matter, even today.
Roses are given as tokens of love, or at least deep friendship. Still today, the young and the romantic press a rose between the pages of some seldom used book, to dry and preserve the token. The rose is out of sight and often out of mind, but memories of that special individual return whenever one discovers it while thumbing through the book.
Faulkner certainly would have known of this practice which symbolizes the romanticism of the Southern tradition. Since Emily Grierson is a product of the Old South, as viewed by Faulkner, she would very naturally have participated in its rituals.
Previous attempts to offer a single explanation for the rose in “A Rose for Emily” highlight how many possibilities exist. In one sense, Homer could be the rose (Fenson and Kritzer). A combination of the rose-colored bedroom and Homer as a dried rose could serve as “a relic of the past” (Weaks 12). Homer’s body could be like a rose pressed between the pages of a book, kept “tucked away in a seldom used, rose colored room which at times can be opened” (Kurtz 40).
In the story, Miss Emily’s central character trait is denial of change. She...
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