Literary Analysis: A Rose for Emily

Literary Analysis: A Rose for Emily

The literary analysis covers the short story, A Rose for Emily, written by William Faulkner. The story is a representation of gothic literature written in the 1930s. It is a presentation of the story of Emily Grierson who dies aged seventy-four after she had lived a life of isolation. The townspeople, Mississippi’s Jefferson, are curious to the extent that they gather at her funeral. Emily’s story represents the resistance against Southern culture through the use of different literary devices including metaphors, foreshadowing and symbolism.

Faulkner has extensively used metaphor in the short story. The term refers to a figure of speech that refers to one thing through mentioning another. According to Benelhadj, metaphor is important in a short story because “it allows one or two words to represent many words” (42). Faulkner has used a metaphor that says “the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument” (1). The author uses the term “fallen monument” to represent Miss Emily Grierson who had died after being part of the town for the entirety of her life. Therefore, she is considered by the townspeople as a fallen monument, which has fallen through death. Besides, Faulkner uses the metaphor to ensure that the reader understand what he seeks to pass across. In this case, he was concerned with creating a picture in the mind of the audience about the importance of Miss Grierson. The author also utilizes other instances of metaphor where he writes “she vanquished them, horse and foot” (3). The statement makes reference to the instance when the tax collectors visited her home seeking to enforce a tax order. The phrase “horse and foot” is used to refer to the ground troops and the calvary. The author indicates that the Board of Alderman and their representatives were sent away altogether. It is an indication that even though they had come for war, she was stronger and ready for them. Thus, the argument above shows instances where the author has used a metaphor to provide an explanation to the reader.

The second literary device used by the author is foreshadowing. The device refers to a situation where the writer provides the reader with a hint about what is expected to come deep into the story. First, he writes that “When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of a respectful affection for the fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of the house” (Faulkner 233). The opening statement creates several questions in the mind of the reader. Did Emily Grierson die unmarried hence the use of the term miss? What made Miss Grierson so popular that she was referred to as a monument? What exactly were the townswomen concerned about? The writer creates a desire among the readers to have the questions answered. The only way about getting the answers to the questions is through reading the story further.

The plot of Faulkner’s story starts with the opposite. It starts with a narration of his death first before engaging the readers in her life stories up until her death. The author has used foreshadowing to indicate to the readers that the main character is dead. Therefore, when telling the story, the reader is intent on establishing how the main character met her death. It creates suspense that can only be resolved by reading the rest of the story up to the end. According to Xu, “With the development of the plot, the conflict about the life of Miss Emily is presented (267). Besides, the use of the technique seeks to engross the reader into the plot of the story. Also, the tax situation uses the techniques of foreshadowing. When the author introduces the concept of taxes and how the colonel had invented a way for her to pay the taxes, the reader already knows that the controversy is brewing. Conveniently, the taxes develop and become a serious issue pitting Emily against the Board of Alderman (Faulkner 489). Therefore, Faulkner achieves the intended purpose of foreshadowing. After every issue within the plot, he introduces another which moves from page to page until the climax where Miss Grierson kills something.

Lastly, the author uses symbolism. The technique uses an object or a mystic existence to give meaning to a phenomenon in writing. It is an important aspect of literature because it creates concrete images to express ideas about a certain abstract concept. The creation of images helps the readers to appropriately picture the concept that is being explained by the author. The author has extensively used symbolizing in the short story to the point that it becomes a theme of the short novel. According Zhao, “Faulkner applies symbolism throughout the story and makes this simple story pregnant with meaning” (80). The story presents a ruined family from the Southern part of America that symbolizes a significant change in the social systems. The symbolism utilized in the short story demonstrates the decayed force in the south of America. Faulkner highlights the symbols of death through the dust that has covered Miss Grierson’s house. The author states that when the men from the tax office go to the house to collect her dues, they notice that “the hallway smelled of dust and disuse” (Faulkner 2). Also, the author talks of dust when they are seated in the parlour and indicates that “a faint dust rose sluggishly about their thighs, spinning with slow motes in the single sun-ray” (Faulkner 3). Consequently, the death of Homer Barron, Emily’s boyfriend, is symbolized by dust. She kept the body in the secret room where the dust covered everything, including the horrifying death that was unearthed by the townspeople after she had died. Therefore, the author has successfully used the symbol of dust to explain death. The character’s death is explained through the dust that covers the hallway and the secret room.

Faulkner has used three major stylistic devices that include metaphors, foreshadowing and symbolism to best bring out the themes in his story. The devices help the author to elaborate on his main ideas or to make the story interesting to the audience. The story of Miss Emily Grierson is intertwined with the mystery that the townspeople seek to unravel after her death. The townspeople attend the funeral because of the dictates of the Jefferson culture, although they also have an intention to fulfil other desires. The stylistic devices are useful in helping Faulkner to build the plots and the themes.



Works Cited

Benelhadj, Fatma. “Metaphor translation: a systemic-conceptual perspective.” ESFLC2019 (2019): 42.

Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” In Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry and Drama by Robert DiYanni (eds). New York: McGraw Hill, 2008. (pg 79-84).

Xu, Yan. “Analysis of” A Rose for Emily” from the Perspective of the Stylistic Features of Confabulation and Symbolism.” 2nd International Conference on Arts, Design and Contemporary Education. Atlantis Press, 2016.

Zhao, Yang. Symbolism in A Rose for Emily. International Conference on Education Technology and Social Sciences, 2018. (Pgs 80-84).

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