Symbolism in "A Rose for Emily"

Symbolism in "A Rose for Emily"
The main symbolism running throughout A Rose for Emily is shown in the theme of how important it is to let go of the past. Miss Emily clings to the past and does not want to be independent. The Old South is becoming the new South and she can not move forward. The residents of the South did not all give in to change just because they lost the Civil War. In A Rose for Emily time marches on leaving Miss Emily behind as she stubbornly refuses to progress into a new era. A symbol is a person, object, or event that suggests more than its literal meaning. In the story, symbolism is used to give more details than the author actually gives to the reader. Symbolism helps to indicate how Emily was once innocent but later changes, how her hair, house, and lifestyle, helped to show her resistance to change. The story is not told in chronological order. The events of her life are revealed slowly and create suspense over the telling of the story by the narrator. The narrator represents the town and its residents.
A Rose for Emily draws a vivid picture of the south at the turn of the century. The story opens with the narrator mentioning the funeral of Miss Emily. Faulkner uses language that creates the view of Emily as an institution. Emily is described as a ?fallen monument.? William Faulkner?s style in revealing the past of Emily Grierson?s life and the shocking revelations revealed when she died are very creative. The narrator moves from the funeral back in time. The story is told in sections as the reader is given information about Emily at different times in her life.

The ?old south? attitude was shown after her father?s death when Colonel Sartoris invented a story about the town owing her father money, therefore excusing her from paying taxes. Later, when the new generation tried to force her to pay taxes she stubbornly refused. This symbolized her refusal to step into the present. This stubborn refusal caused her not to keep up with events in the town. She did not even realize that Colonel Sartoris had been dead for ten years.

She seemed to always be part of an earlier time. She surrounded herself with reminders of the past. The description of her house showed her desire to hold back time. Another example of Emily?s change was also exhibited in how the house began to degenerate. At one time the house was white and immaculate. Now the house was dusty and dirty and out of style. Even the interior of the house showed evidence of the lack of progression. The leather furniture was cracked, and if the chairs were sat upon dust rose about one?s thighs. The house seemed to be submerged in shadows as if it also refused to admit the light of the future. It had once been part of the most stylish street in town. Now it was surrounded with the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps. It had obviously become an eyesore compared to once when it had been so beautiful. Emily, as an old woman, wore a gold watch around her neck when confronted about the taxes. The watch descended so low on the chain it was hidden by her belt. Although the watch was unseen its constant ticking could be clearly heard. The watch drew attention to Emily?s reluctance to observe the passing of time as generations passed by and the world changed. She was also leaning on a cane with a gold head. The gold was symbolic of her belief that she was royalty in the town and above the law. The gold was also strong like the stubborn strength she showed in facing the visitors about the taxes. Emily lived in the past when her family was powerful because of their wealth. This power was clear when Emily bought arsenic from the druggist. She easily convinced him to sell her arsenic. He was prepared to ignore laws for Emily. This is similar to the discovery of Homer Barron?s body in her bed forty years after his disappearance. She considered herself above the law even to the point of murder. Emily and her house are both decaying as they refuse to move forward. Even her servant Tobe?s voice was described as having ?grown harsh and rusty, as if from disuse.? These symbols of decay reached their peak when the body of Homer was found dressed for bed and only a skeleton remained. It was significant that Homer Barron was described as a ?Yankee? from the North because the North defeated the South. Her father would never have approved of Emily dating a Yankee. Homer was also a construction worker and was not considered good enough by even the townspeople for Miss Emily. This symbolized the remaining Old South social laws. Emily?s refusal to give him up symbolized her desire to break free from tradition and the rule of her father even though he is dead. Her father had once had great control over her. The townspeople remembered Emily dressed in white standing behind her father as he was in the foreground holding a horsewhip. The scene looked like she was the slave and he was the master. The whip symbolized his strictness and control. He had turned away all of her suitors when she was young. He felt that no one was good enough for her. The white dress symbolized the purity he always wanted her to keep.
After her father?s death she cut her hair short to declare her belief that she was free from her father?s control. He would probably not have allowed her to cut it short. The town people described her appearance with the short hair as somewhat angelic. This description shows that she was already withdrawing into another world that existed only for her. In later years, her hair was described as iron gray like her stubbornness and her strong will. She stubbornly refused to become part of the society of the town and to move out of the past. Her physical decline in appearance and the decline in the appearance of her house were much like her decline in society.

The description of the scene when Homer?s body was discovered served not only to shock, but also to reveal more of Emily?s character. In this section Faulkner wrote of the way in which the old seemed to regard the past: ?for whom the past is not a diminishing road but a huge meadow which no winter ever quite touches divided from them now by the narrow bottle neck of the most recent decade of years.? The scene of decay in Homer?s ?tomb? matched the foolishness of Emily?s refusal to let go of the past and move forward with the times.
The rose often represents love and ever-lasting beauty. Roses are often preserved after they die. Emily was denied a rose. Her father denied her suitors when she was young. Her town denied her suitors later. Homer Barron also denied her love because he saw himself as not the marrying kind of man. She refused, however, to give up her ?rose? when she fell in love with Homer. She kept him in the only way that she could. She isolated herself from the world to keep him. The room she kept him in was rose colored. There was an indentation in the pillow where her head had lain. On the pillow was a long strand of iron gray hair. Her deep feelings and longings indented her heart like the indentation in the pillow. She controlled them the only way she knew how. She kept the man she loved from moving forward in time. She kept him in the past with her.

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