“A Rose for Emily” by W. Faulkner

I wrote this in community college. I think I made some decent observations.

The Stinking Rose Will Have Thorns

In “A Rose for Emily” the author William Faulkner reveals the tragic tale of alienation caused by aristocracy. Faulkner argues this by utilizing several forms of rhetorical strategies to unwind the complexities of Miss Emily’s story, the victim of lost opulence. The author amalgamates characterization to disclose Miss Emily’s mental instability, symbolism to set the morbid mood of the narrative, and foreshadowing to allude to the story’s shocking end. Faulkner also relies on the use of multifaceted juxtaposition throughout the text.

It is noteworthy that Faulkner’s use of paradox is not restricted solely to his main argument, but is a concurrent theme all through the story. For example, the supportive point also contains a peculiar irony—an overbearing father inadvertently turns his daughter into a psychopath. This indicates that Miss Emily is the protagonist and her father, Mr. Grierson, is the antagonist. The story’s conclusion is even more paradoxical, because Miss Emily murders the only lover she ever had. It could be argued that this makes her both the protagonist and the antagonist.

Characterization reveals the severity of Miss Emily’s mental issues to the reader. When her father dies, she is in denial and harbors the body until the local officials nearly resort to lawful force to remove it. And then when the aldermen come to collect taxes, she adamantly refuses, insisting that her father’s deceased friend remitted her taxes indefinitely. Without hesitation, Miss Emily has her servant escort the tax collectors out of her home. Later in the story, she suspiciously purchases arsenic. The druggist explains the law requires him to ask her what she is going to use it for, and she “just stared at him, her head tilted back in order to look him eye for eye, until he looked away and went and got the arsenic and wrapped it up.” Evidently, Miss Emily always deemed herself above the law.

The use of characterization in “A Rose for Emily” also helps the audience establish somewhat of a timeline to determine when her stability begins to noticeably deteriorate. By describing her hair, the reader can assess that she is young or old. For example, when she meets Homer Barron, “her hair was cut short, making her look like a girl.” Yet when she emerges from her solitude, after the disappearance of Homer Barron, “she had grown fat and her hair was turning gray.”

In the beginning of the story, Faulkner describes Miss Emily’s inherited house. It is depicted as originally being luxurious, but has since decayed into another mess on the previously privileged street. Her rotting residence resembles her diminished status in the community; like her abode, Miss Emily’s once prestigious family name, and her remarkable beauty, was lost to the perils of time. Her family home also symbolizes her dwindling emotional and mental stability. Her psychosis is a shameful, abstract part of the town’s history, whereas her house is a physical blemish.

When Miss Emily consistently evades her taxes, it signifies her apparent apathetic attitude toward authority. In this part of the story, Faulkner makes use of symbolism and foreshadowing, simultaneously; he is hinting at her culminating criminal mentality. In this passage, Faulkner is also using characterization along with symbolism, especially when he illustrates Miss Emily’s appearance from the perspective of the alderman—“She looked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless
water, and of that pallid hue.” Therefore, the sickly shape she is in reflects her disregard for her own well-being; she does not care about herself because she has removed herself from society. This also strengthens the melancholic mood of the story.

The town sees Miss Emily’s servant, Tobe, more than they see her. This implies that Miss Emily is ashamed and guilty to the point of seclusion. She disguises her shame as depression, tricking the town into believing she was deserted by Homer Barron, the man she murdered. Over the years, the town saw Tobe “grow grayer and more stooped,” an emblem of Miss Emily’s moribund mind. Likewise, when Tobe goes into town to fetch food for Miss Emily, the front door of the Grierson house remains closed, thus symbolizing Miss Emily’s guilty conscience destroying her psyche. The groceries retrieved by Tobe embody life, whereas Miss Emily’s estrangement from the town of Jefferson represents death—yet another paradox cleverly employed by Faulkner.

Foreshadowing is used immediately in “A Rose for Emily.” The story begins with the town’s attendance at Miss Emily’s funeral. The townsfolk refer to her as a “fallen monument.” This proclamation hints at the grotesque truth about her that is only exposed at the end of the text. It is also notable that Faulkner chose the setting of a funeral as an opening; it instantly initiates a macabre mood.

The putrid stench emanating from the Grierson house indubitably haunts the story with the foreboding revelation of Miss Emily’s perverse crime. The disgusting odor denotes rot, even though it is not obvious until later in the story. The town ignorantly thinks the rank smell is from neglect, not a corroding corpse hidden in the Grierson quarters.

Miss Emily’s reaction to her father’s death is another clue demonstrating her plethora of bizarre mental illnesses. It specifically shows her obsessive nature. Her inability to retire her father’s body to the proper authorities is indicative of her future plans for Homer Barron. If she cannot have them, no one will; she is denying death for the sake of love.

The dead giveaway to Miss Emily’s sinister plan is when she purchases arsenic. When she is buying the poison, her demeanor is aloof and menacing. Soon after, Homer Barron returns to her and then vanishes just as quickly; this implicates her intentions to kill him.

“A Rose for Emily” is from the perspective of the oblivious citizens of Jefferson, Missouri. It is told with an unbiased yet morose tone. There is a perpetual emphasis on death throughout the story; it begins with a funeral and ends with presumable necrophilia. Faulkner captivates the reader with his ability to maintain mystery; despite the use of foreshadowing, the story is suspenseful until the ghastly, climactic end.

The main point of the story is perpetually referenced. In the first line of the first paragraph, Faulkner introduces Miss Emily as deceased. Isolation is finalized at death. This alienating truth is insinuated in the opening line of the story. The rest of the introductory paragraph refers to the reasons people show up at Miss Emily’s funeral, even though they were never close to her. The end of the introduction reiterates Miss Emily’s seclusion by stating she only had contact with her servant for the last ten years of her life. Therefore, Faulkner built off of his initial argument—affluent stature causing strife and social separation—from the first line of the story, to the final line of the story. The text in between slowly unveils the web of what segregated Miss Emily from her fellow townsfolk. Faulkner brilliantly comes full circle with his argument, and without diluting suspense. He could not have accomplished this without applying characterization, symbolism, and foreshadowing.


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