A Rose For Emily Or Something More

Essay, Research Paper

a rose for emily or something moreA symbol is a person, object, or event that suggests more than its literal meaning. In the story “A Rose for Emily,” the symbolism shows more about the character than is detailed by the author, William Faulkner. Symbolism helps to indicate several things in the story: how Ms. Emily was once innocent but later changes, how her hair and some other items helped to show her resistance to change, how the room where Homer died shows that she loved Homer and her desire to stop change, how Homer’s name and actions suggest that he is a homosexual, and how she could not get away from her father’s control even after his death. First, Ms. Emily used to white wear dresses, which symbolize innocence, but she begins wearing black clothes, much like a mourner’s style of dress, after Homer presumably disappears. Emily’s change in appearance shows that she has become soiled in some sense. Ray West further supports this theory. “Emily had not always looked like this. When she was young and part of the world with which she was contemporary, she was, we are told, a slender figure in white,’ as contrasted with her father, who is described as a spraddled silhouette.’ Even after her father’s death,…[She] looked like a girl with a vague resemblance to those angels in colored church windows – sort of tragic and serene.’ The suggestion is that she had already begun her entrance into that nether-world(a world which is depicted later as rose-tinted)” (149)Another example of Emily’s change is also exhibited in how the house begins to degenerate. At one time the house was white and emaculate, but Emily allows it to become decrepit and dirty. “It was 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, set on what had once been our most select street. …only Miss Emily’s was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps – an eyesore among eyesores.” (Bedford 47)According to Ray West it was shown through the use of the words “stubborn and coquettish” Also he states that the description of the interior illustrates Emily’s decay. “‘They were admitted by the old Negro into a dim hall from which a stairway mounted into still more shadow. It smelled of dust and disuse – a close, dank smell.’ In the next paragraph a description of Emily discloses her similarity to the house: She looked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water, and of that pallid hue.’” (West 149)Another use of symbolism is in the description of Ms. Emily’s hair as she grows older. After her father dies she cuts it short, and the townspeople say it is sort of angelic. This symbolizes her belief that she is finally free of her father’s control over her, because she probably would not get that style of hair cut had her father been there to influence her. Another instance is in her later years her hair becomes iron-gray. The iron in “iron-gray” symbolizes her stubbornness and strong will, because iron is a very strong element and it is mentioned several times throughout the story. Ray West makes a good point on the letter that she sends to the mayor. ” a note on paper of an archaic shape, in a thin, flowing calligraphy in faded ink,’” (49). This suggests that she never changed her style of writing or the paper on which she used to write. Melinda Schwab states, “Her desire to keep her life from changing is further evidenced by her reluctance to have her father’s body removed and buried and by her refusal to allow street numbers to be attached to the door of her beloved family home,” (215). Next is the use of color to symbolize her love for Homer Barron and her desire to keep things the same. After Emily’s death, many of the people in the town brake into one of the locked rooms and discover that most of the room and its objects were red. Red is usually the symbol of love. Also, the way in which Homer’s body was found symbolizes her love for him. She must have cared for him because she took the time to undress him, put him in his night shirt, and lay him on the bed. If she had just wanted him dead and not to be with him she probably would have had her servant dispose of the body. Also if she had allowed him to leave her there would be dramatic changes in her life such as the town pitying her even more.

“The view of Emily as a monument would have been destroyed. Emily might have become the object of continued gossip, but she would have become susceptible to the town’s pity – therefore, human. Emily’s world, however, continues to be the Past(in its extreme form it is death), and when she is threatened with desertion and disgrace, she not only takes refuge in that world, but she also takes Homer with her, in the only manner possible.” (West 150)Homer Barron may also someone he does not appear to be. Homer might actually have been a homosexual. “[Homer himself had remarked - he liked men, and it was known that he drank with the younger men in the Elks' Club - he was not a marrying man.] (Wallace 106)” He is also associated with items that suggest he is sterile or that for some reason he will not have children. Hal Blythe states, “Moreover, even in death Barron and the bedroom are covered with patient and biding dust,’ Faulkner’s traditional image of sterility. (49)” Mr. Blythe also states that Homer Barron was probably gay. “When he first appears, Barron is Associated with mules and machinery’ [Bedford 50], things that can never bear fruit.” “[Even Barron’s last name refers to the fruitless, or barren, union with Miss Emily” (49). Finally, there are several examples of how her father’s control over her was so great. The townspeople pictured Emily dressed in white standing behind her father, and him in the foreground holding a horsewhip. The whip symbolizes his strictness and desire for Emily to be a perfect little girl. As Mr. West put it, “..she has been frustrated by her father, prevented from participating in the life of her contemporaries,” (150). As stated earlier when her father died she refused to bury him saying he was not dead. This can also exhibit his control over her even after his death. Emily’s killing Homer after he had decided to leave her also can also symbolize her father’s control. Her father had influenced her so much that she felt it was wrong for Homer to desert her so she killed him in order for him to remain with her as if they were married. There are quite a few symbols in “A Rose for Emily,” and each one has a special meaning. The meaning of the symbols must be determined by each reader, and therefore, each time the story is read it can take on a new form. Which will make this story last for generations to come. Work Cited Blythe, Hal. Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily.” The Explicator. Washington D.C.: Heldref Publications, 1989. V. 47. 49-50. Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. 3rd ed. Boston: Bedford-St. Martin’s P, 1993. 47-53. Schwab, Melinda. A Watch for Emily. Studies in Short Fiction. Ed. Michael J. O’Shea. Columbia, SC: The R.L. Bryan Company, 1991. V. 28. 215-217. Wallace, James. Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily.”. The Explicator. Washington D.C.: Heldref Publications, 1992. V. 50. 106-7. West, Jr., Ray. Atmosphere and Theme in Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily’. Short Story Criticism. Ed. Sheila Fitzgerald. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Inc. Book Tower, 1989. V.1. 148-50.


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