Symbolism and Theme in William Faulkner's A Rose for Emily
In William Faulkner's short story "A Rose for Emily," a series of interconnected events collectively represent a single theme in the story. Symbolism is the integral factor involved in understanding the theme. "A Rose for Emily's" dominant theme is the search for love and security, a basic human need which can be met unfavorably in equivocal environments. Faulkner's use of symbolism profoundly develops the theme of the story, bringing to light the issues of morality that arise from a young woman's struggle to find love.
Faulkner provides the necessary pieces of symbolism, speckled through out the action of the story, for the reader to assimilate and assemble. Curiously, it is a broken time line that Faulkner follows, that allows him to achieve maximum effect at the end of the story. The placement of the conclusion or denouement at the beginning of the story, allows the curiosity of the reader to become strongly engaged on the character of Emily Grierson. As the narration begins with the funeral of Emily, the juxtaposition of the image received in the opening paragraph, is sharply compared to that of the information found in the third paragraph. Where in the first the town has come to pay respects to a fallen monument, in the third it is learned that she was really, "...a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town..." (276).
The story progresses through flashbacks, and Emily is heard speaking to the gentlemen representing the Board of Aldermen, and it is noticed that she is wearing a thin gold watch chain. It is not until a lull takes place after the spokesman announces the purpose of their visit, that they then,"... could hear the invisible watch ticking at the end of the gold chain" (277). The watch is tucked into Emily's belt, and symbolically foreshadows a particular characteristic of hers to be learned at the end of the story. The hidden watch seems to suggest that Emily has a need to hide the effects of time, and a stronger one to control it. Time has taken all the things she has longed for in life. Things she can no longer recover in a reality based environment, become the subject of the fantastic inner workings of her altered state of mind. When her father dies, she gains the ultimate control in determining her destiny, and Emily is now given a freedom never before experienced under her father's guidance.
Her father's strict hand in stifling her natural instincts leads to a dangerous form of complacency for Emily later in life. There stands an image of the narrator's, of "Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background...her father...in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the backflung front door" (278), which conjures up a perverse metaphorical portrait of the two. The father with so much power over the life of his daughter, tends only to his own selfish motivations by chasing away...