Figurative Language in a Rose for Emily
The short story “A Rose for Emily” written by American writer, William Faulkner, is a story about Miss. Emily Grierson’s life narrated by town as they attend Emily’s funeral. In the story the town looks back at the sequence of events in Emily’s life leading up to the point of her death. The story unfolds a dark secret that the character of Emily kept hidden, this secret is later discovered after her passing. Throughout the story many clues were given regarding this dark secret in which neighbors failed to act upon. Although the story isn’t told in order of events the narrator covers many big moments of Emily’s life through a third person point of view. My reaction after reading “A Rose for Emily” was full of amazement, I was intrigued by the way the events played out in the story and how each event correlated to the other no matter its order. Another aspect of the short story that caught my attention was the figurative language used throughout the story to create an image and deeper meaning for the reader. Faulkner uses various forms of figurative language, ranging from metaphors and similes to symbolism and imagery, to help paint a picture for the reader. These forms of figurative language are scattered throughout the story with various meanings attached to them.
A form of figurative language found in the story can be seen in the first paragraph when the narrator used a metaphor to describe Miss. Emily Grierson. In the first few sentence of the story the narrator describes Emily as a “fallen monument” (Faulkner 628). The narrator uses this metaphor while it explains the reasonings as to why people are showing up to Emily’s funeral, “…the men through a sort of respectful affection for the fallen monument…” (Faulkner 628). By using this metaphor Faulkner portrays Emily to be someone important to the people in the town, someone with great value and a notable person. As the story continues another metaphor can also be found in the beginning of the story, it reads, “Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care…” (Faulkner 628). This metaphor is used to describe her place and role in the lives of those who surrounded her, it refers to the way the town viewed Miss. Emily as, someone important, “…a tradition”. The town also views her as a person they’re are responsible for, “…a duty, and a care;…”, due to how long Miss. Emily has lived in the town and her family’s help throughout the time.
In addition to metaphors, another f of figurative language found in this short story is the use of imagery and symbolism. Imagery can be found when the narrator describes the Grierson’s house, “It was big, squarish frame that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome styles of the seventies, set on what had been our most select street.” (Faulkner 628). This sentence and form of figurative language provides the reader with a description of what Emily’s house looked like, allowing the reader to make the interpretation that the house has not been taken care of for a while after her father’s passing, but was once one of the best house in the town. Both imagery and symbolism can also be found towards the end of the story when the townspeople notice a strand of hair next to Homer’s corpse on the bed, “One of us lifted something from it, and leaning forward, that faint and invisible dust dry and acrid in the nostrils, we saw a long strand of iron-gray hair.” (Faulkner 634), this can symbolize Emily’s obsession with Homer and her version of “forever” and “commitment”.
Throughout the story, Faulkner did not only provide metaphors used to describe someone he also used visual metaphors to give the reader an idea throughout the story of what the mental state of the protagonist was during some events that occured in her life. One of the visual metaphors used to give a better understanding of Emily’s life, is her weight. In stressful moments of Emily’s life, the author represents her as being very obese and growing old, this is shown to the reader when loneliness strikes Emily’s life. This is shown in the story when the town confronts Miss. Emily for her tax payments in which they proceed to describe her, “Her eyes, lost in the fatty ridges of her face, looked like two small pieces of coal pressed into a lump of dough as they moved from one face to another …” (Faulkner 629), which occurred after the passing of her father, leaving her behind in loneliness. Miss. Emily is then seen thin when her life has “a purpose” or has something occupying her mind, such as Homer and her father. During the time her father and Homer were present in her life, Emily was portrayed as thin; symbolizing and representing her to be in a good place in her life.
William Faulkner uses various forms of figurative language throughout his story to provide the reader with a better understanding of events as well as to provide the reader with a “picture”. Metaphors, simile, imagery, symbolism and more, can all be found in Faulkner’s short story “A Rose for Emily”. One important form of figurative language is when imagery is used to help reveal the gray hair found on Emily’s pillow, helping the reader understand that Emily had been sleeping next to the corpse of Homer ever since he had gone missing. Figurative language plays a role in many other forms of literature, from helping to make a story or paper more entertaining or interesting, to even providing hidden messages to the reader.