Symbolism in “A Rose for Emily”

Symbolism in “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner “A Rose for Emily” is a short story written by William Faulkner, and uses a lot of symbols to create different elements of the story. These symbols he uses are really what make this story interesting. A few of those symbols are her house, hair, and clothing, but I have chosen to talk about her house as a major symbol in this short story. There are a few denotative meanings of the noun “house. ” One well-known meaning is, “a dwelling place for one or more persons, especially a family. ” It can also mean to some people “family. The house is a symbol of how Emily with time has become old and more decrepit because of the neglect for herself. Faulkner states, “It was a big, squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies, set on what had once been or most select street” (90). Emily used to be very beautiful in her youth but with time she became less and less of an important figure in her town because she stopped taking care of herself. Faulkner goes on to describe the house as the, “eyesore among eyesores” (90).

Emily became exactly like her house; she became an eyesore to the people of the town because of her neglect to herself. Faulkner describes her in her prime as having a slender figure but later describes her as, “bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water with eyes lost in the fatty ridges of her face” (91). At Miss Emily’s funeral she is described as a “fallen monument” (90). This could be a symbol for her once being a beautiful important human being that had diminished while becoming old and not taking care of her image.

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The town in this story saw Emily as a powerful person because of her family. They had their large house that was very beautiful, but when her father dies she changes just like the house and becomes less regal with time. Also, Faulkner uses the changes in Emily as an allegory to the changes in the south. He uses the odd chronological order to represent the South trying to hold onto what it once had. The house added a lot to the meaning of the story. It helped represent how Emily became older and less pretty with time and neglect of her image.

With the use of symbolism in the house and the descriptions of how it deteriorated the reader has a better understanding of how much Emily changed in her lifetime as well. The house is a literary symbol because it represents a public meaning. The people of the town noticed how much Emily had changed by not only looking at her own appearance, but also the appearance of her home. Works Cited Meyer, Michael. The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature: Reading, Thinking, Writing. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009.

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Symbolism in “A Rose for Emily”. (2018, May 16). Retrieved from