14 September, 2014
William Fulkner’s most famous and much-anthologized story, “A Rose for Emily” evokes many questions as well as a sense of feeling. Most discussions of the short story surrounds Miss Emily Grierson, an aristocratic woman deeply admired by her community, and they think a great deal of her. In the disparity of the community’s view, the audience realizes that Miss Emily not only poisons and kills her lover, Homer Barron, but entombs his corpse in her bedroom and reveals her necrophilia. The narrator’s point of view, along with Falkner’s symbolism and characterization create and reinforce the story’s main theme: repression can twist a soul into something beyond recognition.
“A Rose for Emily” reveals a chilling theme by its unique narrative point of view. Consider the opening sentence of the story, “the men [went] through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument.” The narrator reveals to be sympathetic to Miss Emily which can reflect on the audience. Admiring Miss Emily as a monument the narrator takes pity on her throughout the story without condemning her actions. Miss Emily is not condemned for her obsession with Homer, nor is she condemned when she does not release her father’s corpse to be buried. Consider the narrator’s empathy, “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.” By using "we", Faulkner has created a sense of unity between his emotional story and the readers. Eric Sterling observes in his essay of narrative
England 2 voice in “A Rose For Emily, “the town becomes preoccupied with Emily. The townspeople watch her every move, such as when she cuts her hair short and when she goes out with Homer Barron…Her life becomes theirs. (Sterling. 37.)” Sterling notices the narrator’s observation of the townspeople which makes it easy to feel sympathetic for Miss Emily. The narrator is presenting her with a "rose" by sympathetically telling her story; a story of a once young and very much alive woman becomes repressed, weakened and broken.
The tone of the story is reflected to the rose in the title; and Williams Faulkner's explanation: “The [title] was an allegorical title; the meaning was, here was a woman who had had a tragedy, an irrevocable tragedy and nothing could be done about it, and I pitied her and this was a salute…to a woman you would hand a rose (Outón 1999).” Throughout the story, Miss Emily is pricked by thorns and unable to enjoy the beauty of the rose, and she, herself, produces thorns. Although Miss Emily’s father is guilty of repression, the community, which the narrator is associated with, is just as guilty. Not only is the narrator sympathetic but appears apologetic as he confesses the community’s repression against Miss Emily; feeling responsible. The narrator’s confession reflects a major crime committed against Miss Emily; gossip – which is nothing more than a confession of another’s misfortunes and crimes.
Her father denied her from having a normal life by not accepting any of her suitors when she was young.
Symbolism is found throughout the story, “A Rose for Emily.” Miss Emily is seen from only a distance for the majority of the story, leaving the community to create very subjective theories about a woman they know so little about; which reflects Falkner’s readers. With so
England 3 many unanswered questions the audience is left to interpret what they believe based on the information in front of them. Wallace Stegner writes about literacy devices and explains the importance of symbolism, “In situation-revealed stories, form must be found in the material and often is maintained through symbol (Stegner. 1966.)” The symbolism throughout the story is left for interpretation, such as the strand of hair found next to Miss Emily’s former lover. Faulkner