A Rose for Emily Symbolism
Daily, the average person comes across a multitude symbols every day. Symbolism can best be described as “the practice of representing things by symbols, or of investing things with a symbolic meaning or character.” (Dictionary.com) Colors are amazing samples of symbolism. The color gray symbolizes sorrow and anxiety whereas the color black symbolizes death and agony. Lifeless objects also do present symbols, a chain represents a link in marriage or relationships and the sun signifies spirits and visibility. In the story, A Rose for Emily, the townsfolk get together and yearn over the death of Miss Emily Grierson.
As they gather each person ponder on a collection of memories with the lady, whether they were valuable or awful. Emily Grierson was very well established and lived with her muted servant and her overprotective father. Emil was never allowed to date or flirt with a man as her father kept her isolated from the outside. On the day of the father’s passing, Emily could not let her father go; therefore, she kept her father with her for three days, in denial that he had passed away. In William Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily, an innumerable amount of symbolism is represented to express the short story more and clarify hidden messages. Miss Emily Grierson can be best
symbolized as a monument. The house used to be the nicest house on the street; however, during the time the story takes place the house is old. Emily too has grown older and has worn with time. This suggests that Emily has worn out just as the house has, thus the “house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay,” (pg 1013) but remaining as strong and tall. The house was once a beautiful architectural piece, and Emily was once a beautiful young woman. Both symbolize a monumental trait. The house managed to lift itself after many events that had taken place, however it did so in a very wearily manner.
Stubbornness is another thing Miss Emily symbolized. Miss Emily was perpetually enchained to her father, and his loss may have triggered denial and rejection. There are several symbolic phases of Emily Grierson to be seen throughout the story; however, the one she symbolizes with the most is isolation, as she is kept away from relationships by her father, most likely causing her to have depression.
Miss Emily could not find comfort in the townspeople expecting too much of her because they believed that “even grief could not cause a real lady to forget noblesse oblige”– which means to show noble respect to everybody. The townsfolk symbolized inhumanity. The town’s attitude towards Emily resembles how the town dehumanized Emily. Through this, it can be inferred that Emily Grierson did not appreciate the remarks made by the townspeople; therefore, she separated herself from them.
The narrator, along with the townspeople, had “begun to feel really sorry for her” because of the way Miss Emily had turned out to be after devastations and solitariness. They didn’t know what else to do but feel compassion, and maybe that wasn’t the type of attitude she wanted to be surrounded with. The unrealistic social expectations and the resulting criticisms to which Emily is subjected are another evidence of how she is dehumanized by the people of her town. They sought too much from Miss Grierson and would be left disappointed when she would not follow up with the noblesse oblige. She was neglected for not living up to the Grierson name, and frowned upon all she’d do. They expected too much from Miss Grierson. If something they saw was something away from the lines of proper morals, they would talk about it in rejection.
The town people would think less of her. From the day she was in denial of her father’s death, to the day she began to fancy with with Homer, the townspeople always had something to say about her. When she began to date Barron, the ladies claimed, “Of course a Grierson would not think seriously of a Northerner”. (pg 1013) They didn’t appreciate Emily’s choices. Just as there are people that symbolize things, objects are just as symbolic. Roses have been a major symbol in today’s society and will continue to be. Homer Barron was the one-man Emily was able to date because her father never allowed her to do so. She could not live without his forgiving love, because he was the second person she cared for the most.
His death became a secret Emily had to keep, and she did up until her own death. Emily’s monumental home is another symbol in the story. Emily’s house, like Emily, is a monument.(Shmoop) They both represent the decline of the ‘Old South’. Monuments are created to show off something or someone given respect to. Emily’s house shows the “decline of the Old South” because its details are unique and classy, a must in the Grierson name, however it has worn out and no longer is found symbolic.
This house is a huge symbol of Miss Emily’s isolation. All the down falls she has experienced have happened in her home and Emily wants nobody to get near her: she has isolated herself. “As the narrator continues to tell his story, he builds an increasingly wider between himself and Emily’s anxieties.” (Garrison Jr. 1) The layers of dust resembles the cloud of obscurity that hides Emily’s nature and the secrets her house contains. These “layers of dust” is basically a cover up of all the secrets of Miss Emily as well as a cover up of herself and the events taking place. After Emily’s death, many men passed through her “monument” or house just out of curiosity, as she stayed isolated from her townspeople. (Garrison Jr. 2) Overall, William Faulkner used symbolism repetitively in “A Rose for Emily” and reveals a deeper explanation of the hidden text, giving the story more diversity throughout.
- “’Bought Flowers’ in ‘a Rose for Emily’.” Studies in Short Fiction, by Joseph M. Garrison Jr., vol. 16, Newberry College, 1979, p. 341.
- Academic Search Complete, search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.vccs.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=7150013&site=ehost-live. Accessed 2 May 2018.
- “Dictionary.com.” Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, www.dictionary.com/.
- Faulkner, William. A Rose for Emily. 1930. Shmoop Editorial Team. “The House in A Rose for Emily.” Shmoop, Shmoop University, 11 Nov. 2008,