William Faulkner’s ,,A Rose for Emily ” is a tragic story about Emily Grierson’s life and death, who desperately stood against the law and the modernization in all her life. The Old South declines, and the new South up rises which Emily can not accept as she wants to keep the memory of the past, when her father was alive, and she did not have to stand alone. The story takes place in a town called Jefferson, in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. The plot is not told in a chronological order in the story, it is our job to figure out the chain of events.
The first event is when her father dies, and she is left alone. Later, in the town the construction of sidewalks begins, and Homer Barrel appears as he is the leader of the builders. Emily and Barrel are seen together a lot of times, and people of the town think they will get married. After a while, Emily visits the druggist, and asks for arsenic poison, she does not say what for. Then Emily’s cousins arrive and Homer leaves. While her cousins are in Jefferson, she buys toiletries with Homer’s initials.
Later, her cousins leave, and Homer is seen entering Emily’s house. That was the last time that townspeople saw Homer Barrel. After Homer’s disappearance, Emily starts to age, she gains weight, and never leaves the house, which is getting smellier and smellier. Eventually, Emily passes, and people visit her house. They find a secret room, in which there is a bed, and a skeleton lies on it dressed in a nightshirt, and in the room there are the suit and the ties, and the silver toilette that Emily bought before Homer was last seen.
The skeleton is in the attitude of an embrace, a next to it there is a pillow, on which the townspeople find a strand of hair which had a colour of Emily’s hair before she died. The story is written in first person plural narrative, often uses ,,we”, and ,,our” which consist of all the townspeople. This is important, because it indicates Emily’s influence upon the town. Whenever something happened to her, they knew it, and talked about it, they had rumours to share, so to a certain extent Emily was the one who put them in touch with together.
The story is full of symbols, and one of the most important symbols are related to the connection between Emily and her house. People say that each person has a different house, the decoration and the position of the furniture show our personality. According to this popular belief, in this story Emily’s personality has a pararelism with her house. First proof for this is that William Faulkner suggests us several times, that Emily herself is an institution, we can hardly say a building, for example at her funeral she is mentioned as a fallen monument, and then she is described as tradition, duty, and care.
When her father dies, she cuts her hair off, and she is compared to an angel in coloured church windows. All these descriptions gives us a feeling that Emily is a static person, who never changes. She likes things the way they are, she refuses everything that might change her life, for example her father’s death, or the modernization. She stands against the law a lot of times : she refuses to pay the taxes, she does not tell why she wants the arsenic, she does not let to fasten the metal numbers above her door and attach a mailbox to it. This constancy can be seen in the house.
When the deputation visit her in her house, the room where they wait is full of dust, obsolete, it looks like no one lives in the house, we can say it is dead. This is when Emily appears in a black dress, she has pale skin, and she is described as ,, a body long submerged in motionless water” which highlights again her static personality, and gives us the feeling that she is a corpse (just like the house). When she speaks, her voice is dry and cold, like the dusty, dead room. Another connection between Emily and the house is the huge portrait of her father in the house.
In Emily’s life, her father was who controlled her, told her what to do, and he was the one who did not let anybody marry her. This influence of the father is symbolised by the big portrait of him and Emily. In spite of his death, he still plays an important role in Emily’s life. Where the connection between Emily and the house is the most visible is when the house is described in the second paragraph. The house used to stand in the most selected street of the town, it was respected, but now it has become an ,,eyesore among eyesore”.
Emily also used to be beautiful, but as time was passing she became old and ugly. Only Emily’s house stayed the same while the town was developing. The house is stubborn just like Emily. The decay of the house symbolises the decay of Emily’s physical and emotional decay ( “It was a big, squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires … ” “… Emily’s house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps… “).
When her father died, she closed the front door which may symbolise that she locked herself in the past. The only connection with the external world is her black servant, Tobe, who goes to the groceries for her, but he never speaks to anyone. After Emily dies, on the day of the funeral he lets the first woman in the house, and then disappears. Finally, in the end, the townspeople find that mysterious bedroom, the bedroom which is decorated as a bridal room. This room symbolises what Emily really wanted in her life but never had: everlasting love, and affection.