Literary Themes In Faulkner's 'a Rose For Emily'

1206 words - 5 pages

After World War One, there were many changes occurring in the world. Man's need to follow longstanding tradition was being challenged by a continually changing and modernizing world. The past and the present often collided. William Faulkner, a southern born writer, aptly reflects the turmoil of the past and the present in "A Rose for Emily". The conflict between the past and the present is symbolized in the beginning of the story by this description, "only now Miss Emily's house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and gasoline pumps-an eyesore among eyesores" (91). It is ironic that the same description "stubborn and coquettish decay" can be a description for Miss Emily herself as well. Miss Emily had becoming just like her house, which had once been white and on a "select street", she had been a slim young lady dressed in white but as the house fell into a decrepit state so had she. "She looked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water and of that pallid hue" (92).The town played a definite part in Miss Emily's mental delusion. There were numerous complaints of a foul stench coming from her property and yet no one addressed it to her directly. A younger member of the Board of Aldermen suggested that Miss Emily be told to clean up her property. But due to the old southern ideals of honor, duty and loyalty the older, the more traditional members could not possibly confront her about this matter as 'Dammit sir", Judge Stevens said," will you accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad?"(93) So in the midnight hour they chose to slunk about the house and apply lime to the infected areas. Lime is a white powder that is good at covering the smell and aiding in the process of decomposition. When I first read the story, I thought they were referring to lime as in fruit but of course, the powder makes more sense.Thirty years later, the Board of Aldermen allow themselves to be "vanquished" by Miss Emily as they attempted to collect the delinquent taxes owed the town. The druggist also permits her to purchase arsenic without following protocol. By law, Miss Emily was required to tell the druggist what she planned to do with the arsenic which she did not. He in turn writes on the label "For rats". The lime and arsenic are two of the story's creepiest symbols. Arsenic is one of the most used methods of death in old time books because of its odorless, colorless, and apparently undetectable. Meanwhile, the lime, upon more reading about it, is used to get rid of foul smells. The fact that the pharmacist wrote "For Rats" on the label is a somewhat dig at Homer. He was probably not such a nice man. Emily dwells in the past, in an unrealistic era. Once this is established, the reader is somewhat mentally on notice for some sort of unnatural act at the end of the story. This same atmosphere allows the reader to see Miss Emily as a sort of out of sorts woman instead of an evil monster. Miss Emily held on the past...

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