Valerie Vladianu
25 June 2015
English 1020
WW1
Things go south
Symbolism is used in short stories often to describe some characters and places that have intangible traits. William Faulkner wrote his short story “A Rose for Emily” using symbols to relate the house with Emily. Her body is weakening, her place in the community is shifting, and she is unwilling to accept change.
As the reader looks at the order of events, the Grierson house can represent Emily’s physical characteristics. In its best days, the house is illustrated as “white, decorated with cupolas and spire and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies”. This illustration indicates that the purpose of the house was to amaze and attract the townsfolk, making them attentive towards it, because it wasn’t just made for function.
Likewise, the rich ladies at that time, including Emily Grierson, dressed themselves in an eye-catching way. The main reason they wanted to be noticed is because the way they looked was seen as a directly reflecting their spouse or father. In this way, the proud men designed extravagant outfits for their wives to display so they all turn heads and get noticed as wealthy.
Emily’s father considered her as property. She was mainly a decoration, just like their excessively over-the-top house was. The father also secured the house against suitors for his daughter. As the storyline develops, it is clear that both Emily and the home are declining physically. The Grierson house is depicted as “smelling of dust and disuse” while Emily is getting old herself, her voice becoming “harsh, and rusty, as if from disuse. This also shows that the reputation of the family is falling.
Eventually, when Emily dies, the townsfolk see the house as “an eyesore among eyesores” and Emily is held as a “fallen monument”. Both are purposeless and unexciting. Neither represent their earlier glory at all any more. Emily had worn a chain around her neck which symbolized the passage of time and of her own approaching death.
Same as physical qualities, the author applies symbolism of the house to a shift in community standing for Emily. In the best time, this house was “big” and “squarish”. Its location was on the town’s “most select street”. The way the house is described makes one think that the house was hard, dense, and unyielding, also inflexible and resistant to the trivial problems of the crowd. The Grierson family members, mainly Emily, were also thought as great and mighty. The townsfolk considered them royal. Emily was the last Grierson alive and she happened to be a symbol for her family’s and perhaps the entire southern region’s affluent and prosperous past. Yet generations change and the old southern genteel society is transitioning to the new which supports modern thinking about women. The townspeople’s admiration of Emily quickly declined, yet there was gossip at one time that her father didn’t leave her any money just the home in his will. Besides, her shocking presence with Homer Barron added to her diminishing status and character in the townspeople’s eye. She poisons him with arsenic which can symbolize getting rid of that which in turn poisons her. He was from the north and she felt he invaded upon the south and its traditions and ultimately threatened her status. Yet unsurprisingly, the respect and appeal of the house sank together with Emily’s fading reputation.
A very important symbolic relationship is also between the house and Miss Emily’s reluctance to agree to change. Miss Emily firmly stuck to her family’s rich past. For example, when delegates came to the house to collect her overdue taxes, she totally refused to pay duty to her town and commented to the representatives that one time the late mayor “remitted her taxes”. Emily and the Grierson home display more examples of their indifference to growth and development when Miss Emily refuses to have a house-number and a mailbox. She herself rejects any label or relation to anything as radical yet ordinary as a letterbox. Even after everyone else dies and she is “alone, a pauper” and “humanized”, she doesn’t want anyone feeling sorry for her. Actually she “demanded more than ever the recognition of her dignity as the last Grierson”. Also, just