Symbolism in A Rose for Emily Essay
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Symbolism in literature is using an object to portray a different, deeper meaning in a story. Symbols represent ideas or qualities that the author has maneuvered into his or her story that has meaning. There can be multiple symbols in a story or just one. It is up to the reader to interpret the meaning of the symbols and their significance to the story. While reading a story, symbols may not become clear until the very end, once the climax is over, and the falling action is covered. In William Faulkner’s, “A Rose for Emily,” there are multiple examples of symbolism that occur throughout the story. Symbolism that “A Rose for Emily” displays is Miss Emily’s taxes that represent death. First is the death of her father. The taxes are a…show more content…
The lime that is sprinkled around Miss Emily’s house is another symbol in the story. Lime is a white powder that is used to cover the smell of decomposing bodies. The townspeople go to Miss Emily’s house to sprinkle lime in her yard when there is complaint about the awful smell emanating from her house. The smell of Homer’s rotting corpse eventually stops permeating into the streets, but it is thought that the smell may have become normal to the town. The lime symbolizes a weary attempt to hide information. It is a cover up that symbolizes how the town hides the secrets in that generation (Shmoop 5). Arsenic is a symbol of hiding something that smells, just like lime. When arsenic is used to kill a rat, it creates a stench. The arsenic that Miss Emily uses on Homer Barron’s body creates a smell that the townspeople want to get rid of with lime. On Miss Emily’s package, the cashier writes “For rats.” “Faulkner himself claims that Homer was probably not a nice guy. If Homer is planning to break a promise to marry Emily… she probably considers him a rat” (Shmoop 5). This information leads us to believe that Faulkner approves of the poisoning of Homer Barron (Shmoop 5). In the story, there is no mention of an actual rose, yet the story title is “A Rose for Emily.” Another symbol is the rose. In the article, “Symbolism,” the author states he or she believes that the title reflects what Faulkner thinks
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“A Rose for Emily” Symbolism In “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner symbolism is used throughout the entire story. A symbol “in literature [is], a person, place, or thing that suggests more than its literal meaning” (Kennedy 223). William Faulkner used symbolism constantly in many of his stories, so he was very familiar with creating symbols and giving them meanings that the wanted the readers to understand. There is a main symbol and then there are some symbols that are still important to the story, even though they are not the main symbols.
Without these smaller symbols this story would not have the same meaning. Two important symbols that stuck out to me are the rose and “the long strand of iron-gray hair” (Faulkner 35). In real life a rose represents love (or sometimes, even “I am sorry”), but in this story the rose represents Miss Emily’s love for Homer Barron and that she would do anything to be with him for the rest of her life. While reading “A Rose for Emily,” I encountered many symbols. The two symbols that stuck out to me the most were the rose and Miss Emily’s hair. The first symbol is encountered when reading the title, “A Rose for Emily. The rose symbolizes love, the love Miss Emily has for Homer Barron. Another symbol that really made an impression on me was Miss Emily’s “long strand of iron-gray hair,” (Faulkner 35) which represents time. The narrator states: “Already we knew that there was one room in the region above stairs which no one had seen in forty years, and which would have to be forced” (Faulkner 35). If this room had not been seen in forty years and had to be forced open, how is it possible for a gray strand of hair to be on a pillow next to Homer Barron’s body, when Miss Emily’s hair was not gray forty years before that?
When the narrator stated, “And that was the last we saw of Homer Barron” (Faulkner 34), it became very clear what the symbol of the rose meant. Without this statement or without any statement about when Homer Barron was last seen, the meaning of the rose would not have been clear at all. In order to understand the exact meaning of the rose you have to know that she did something to Homer Barron. The discussion Miss Emily and the druggist had, showed that she was up to something that was wrong, something bigger than just killing an ordinary rat (Faulkner 33).
Miss Emily was very careful in the discussion to not say anything about what she was actually planning on using the arsenic for. Everyone thought she was going to kill herself, when in reality, she was going to murder Homer Barron (Faulkner 33). The murder, or what the reader assumes to be the murder, indicates the larger importance of the symbol, that Miss Emily would do anything to spend the rest of her life with her “rose,” which is Homer Barron (Faulkner 34). She loved him and was willing to do anything to be able to spend every day of the rest of her life with him.
The only time it seemed her front door was opened, was when the Negro man went to and from the market (Faulkner 34). It seemed that Homer Barron did not want to be around Miss Emily’s cousins. After all, he did leave when Miss Emily’s cousin were there he left and after they left, he was back a week later (Faulkner 34). I believed Miss Emily realized that Homer did not want to be around her family, so in order to make sure that he never left her, she murdered him. The rose just seems to constantly stick out throughout the story as Homer Barron.
Back to the question of how Miss Emily’s gray hair could possibly be on the pillow next to Homer Barron’s body, if that room had not been open in forty years. It is quite difficult to answer, because that would be almost impossible, unless the narrator is leaving one key part out. What if, by no one the narrator meant every except for Miss Emily? What if, Miss Emily had been up there once since her hair turned gray? Maybe the narrator does not know everything. The only way that Miss Emily’s gray hair could be on that pillow was if she was laying there around the time her hair turned completely gray.
William Faulkner loves to use symbolism in all of his stories, in “A Rose for Emily,” he begins using it from the title and right up until the last few words of the story. Symbolism is an excellent way to help the reader understand certain parts of a story. William Faulkner understands this. If this story was title “Miss Emily’s Love” or something like that the symbolism and the strength of her love would not be as noticeable. Once a person starts to read this story, the rose becomes apparent in its meaning. The rose is the biggest symbol in this story.
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For many people a rose symbolizes “I love you. ” Well, in this case it still symbolizes that, just to the extreme. Miss Emily is willing to do anything, and by anything, I really do mean anything, to keep Homer Barron around for the rest of her life. Works Cited Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily. ” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. Ed. X. J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia. New York: Longman, 2010. 29-35. Print. Kennedy X. J. and Dana Gioia. Literature: An Introdudction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. New York: Longman, 2010. 223. Print.
Author: Brandon Johnson
“A Rose for Emily” Symbolism
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