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The Central Theme And Symbolism Of William Faulkner's A Rose For Emily

1976 words - 8 pages

William Faulkner's central theme in the story "A Rose For Emily" is to let go of the past. The main character in the story, Emily Grierson, has a tendency to cling to the past and has a reluctance to be independent. Faulkner uses symbols throughout the story to cloak an almost allegorical correlation to the reconstruction period of the South. Even these symbols are open to interpretation; they are the heart and soul of the story. With the literal meaning of Faulkner's story implies many different conclusions, it is primarily the psychological and symbolic aspects, which give the story meaning.

Miss Emily cannot accept change to any degree. She is unable to ameliorate as the rest of the society does. The Old South is becoming the New South, and yet Emily still has a Negro man helping around the house. Her house "had once been white" and sits on what "had once been" a most select street, however now it is surrounded by cotton gins, garages, and gasoline pumps. This scene creates a sense of the house being "an eyesore among eyesores" (469). Another example of Miss Emily's ability to refuse change is when she does not allow a house number to be placed on her house when the town receives free postal service.

Emily's father denies her the freedom to establish relationships with men. In fact, Emily was denied her ?rose.? A rose if often referred to as a symbol of everlasting love between a man and a woman. Since her father denies her the chance to court men, she has no chance to even fall in love. "We had long thought of them as tableau, Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the blackflung front door" (471). This picture presents a sense of him being the master while Miss Emily is the slave. The fact that Miss Emily is dressed in white proves her purity. Another point is how Emily is in the background, further proving her submission towards her father. The horsewhip symbolizes the power Miss Emily's father has over her. Her father is domineering and controlling and sadly, that is all she knows. It is no surprise when Miss Emily's father dies, she does not know what to do, "being left alone, and a pauper" (471). The corpse of her father remains in the house for three days while Miss Emily refuses to accept the fact that he is actually dead. The narrator's description of her at the funeral is evidence of sympathy the inhabitants feel toward her; "We did not say she was crazy then. We believed she had to do that. We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will" (471). The crayon portrait resting on an easel before the fireplace reveals the fact that Emily?s father still has a powerful control over her.

Colonel Satoris, a member of the Old South, pardons Miss Emily's taxes...

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