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"A Rose for Emily" is a disturbing tale written by a renowned American author William Faulkner, set in his fictional city of Jefferson in the county of Yoknapatawpha, Mississippi. William Faulkner holds some attributes such as winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1949. He is also accredited with winning the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in 1955 and again in 1962. He is considered to be one of the greatest writers in the twentieth century. His masterpiece "A Rose for Emily," first appeared in the 1930 issue of the Forum magazine. Critics and fanatics alike have hailed the work of this great writer and his piece as one of the most read (Gray and Gray, 5). In an article appearing in the New York Times by Suzanne Berne, she highlights how a student asked Faulkner to explain his famous story. Faulkner responded that he was writing about "a young girl with a young girl's normal aspirations to find love," who as Faulkner goes further to point out that the girl was "repressed by her selfish father, with tragic results" Described as being ugly and grotesque this is a story that truly is the epitome of the effective use of the rose as a symbol for the three main characters.
The rose, a symbol in the story has been most often associated with love, which the author highlighted as an eternal bond between two people which will never be broken. Not even in death. The rose in this story symbolizes the love that that Emily has for Homer. Her father thought that there was no one that was good enough for his daughter or his family, and chased off any man that showed interest in Emily, leaving a void in Emily's life that could only be filled after her father's death. Emily knew that the only way she could keep Homer from leaving, was by killing him. She enshrined his corpse in a small room that would not be entered by anyone else until her death.
The rose according to the story, can also be taken to have the symbol of a secret. In the medieval times the rose was a symbol of silence and secrecy. During these times, the bible was one of the texts that were widely read. The "rose" as defined in the biblical dictionary, was a mysterious symbol which stood for "a disputed translation". It was also perceived to be a "symbol of silence or secrecy" which means that whatever is said or done should not be made public (Gray and Gray, 58). The rose was hung outside of meeting halls and places where discretion and secrecy were demanded. The meeting halls and places that secrecy was needed can be taken to be a metaphor of Emily herself who wanted the highest level of secrecy.
Faulkner in his book leaves no doubt as to the symbolizing Homer also as a rose. Emily hailed from the south where the tradition of young lovers giving each other roses was predominant. The young women during this period would "press the trinket into folds of a favorite book to dry and preserve it" to be reminded of the pastimes when reading it (Gray and Gray, 76). When this form of symbolism is considered, then Homer becomes Emily's rose. Emily keeps Homers in a rose colored room so that she can be reminded of him when she is lonely.
Emily herself can also be symbolized by the rose. Emily was a beautiful socialite in her heydays just like a rose. Just as a rose matures, it develops thorns that have the ability to cut and cause horrible wounds. Her personality in the story as she matured was a prickly one and one could not easily get close to her even when tempted by the scent and beauty of the rose. Emily's father guards the rose from outsiders. Emily is described as "a slender figure in white" which is typical of a virgin during this period (Faulkner, 132). Emily just like a rose, bloomed for Homers but latter faded away and died just like she did. Emily fading away as a rose is clearly highlighted with the author's depiction of her portrait which is in direct contrast to when she was a young beautiful virgin. The author depicts her as wearing black instead of white, fat instead of slender and "bloated, like a body submerged in motionless water" (Faulkner, 121). This shows that she was overwhelmed by life just like a rose starts fading away and losing its pleasant look after some time.
In symbolizing Emily as a rose , the author depicts her to represent the slowly decaying old south, the and her unwillingness to let go of the way things used to be and make way for the newer industrialized south that was on its way. Emily with her rundown house in the center of a town that was demonstrating growth and change was the last link between the old south and the new industrialized south. She refused to change and accept the world around her. Emily found it hard not to cling to her old self because she felt attached to the other roses of her father and Homer.
In closing I think that this story shows an excellent use of the rose as symbolism. After reading this story, the three main characters in it, Emily, her father and Homers can all be seen to be linked up in one way or another to be symbolized as a rose. I think Faulkner was alive in a very interesting time and used the rose as a symbol effectively to describe the changes that were occurring around him. Throughout this tale, Faulkner depicts the image of a rose evolving from its pleasant form to a displeasing dead form. The reader of this tale sees the image of Emily transform from a virgin victim to a murderer up to a corpulent corpse after her death. The author at the end of this story presents a haunting image of Emily resting on her funeral bier. The last section of the tale highlights the death of the final rose, Emily. Her epitaph is written "death has cuckolded Homer, stolen his bride, because death outlasts love and conquers even the grimace of love" (Faulkner, 130).