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Symbolism and Theme in William Faulkner's A Rose for Emily Essay

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Symbolism and Theme in William Faulkner's A Rose for Emily   


In William Faulkner's short story "A Rose for Emily," a series of interconnected events collectively represent a single theme in the story. Symbolism is the integral factor involved in understanding the theme. "A Rose for Emily's" dominant theme is the search for love and security, a basic human need which can be met unfavorably in equivocal environments. Faulkner's use of symbolism profoundly develops the theme of the story, bringing to light the issues of morality that arise from a young woman's struggle to find love.

Faulkner provides the necessary pieces of symbolism, speckled through out the action of the story, for the reader to assimilate and assemble. Curiously, it is a broken time line that Faulkner follows, that allows him to achieve maximum effect at the end of the story. The placement of the conclusion or denouement at the beginning of the story, allows the curiosity of the reader to become strongly engaged on the character of Emily Grierson. As the narration begins with the funeral of Emily, the juxtaposition of the image received in the opening paragraph, is sharply compared to that of the information found in the third paragraph. Where in the first the town has come to pay respects to a fallen monument, in the third it is learned that she was really, "...a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town..." (276).

The story progresses through flashbacks, and Emily is heard speaking to the gentlemen representing the Board of Aldermen, and it is noticed that she is wearing a thin gold watch chain. It is not until a lull takes place after the spokesman announces the purpose of their visit, that they then,"... could hear the inv...


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...uest for love and security, and Emily has provided this for herself. Whether she knew the process through which she gained it was moral or not remains a mystery whose answer died with her. She sought refuge from the cold, and inhospitable environment of abandonment. She sought to get away from the only life she ever knew. The strategic placement of symbolism in the action of this story, provides vast areas with depth of knowledge from which the theme comes forth. The reader is pulled into character early on, by placing the conclusion up front, and placing the falling action at the end of the story. This creates a greater sense of surprise or shock value, and may even evoke a sense of true pity for Emily from the reader.

Work Cited

Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” Literature for Composition. 4th ed. Ed. Sylvan Barnet, et al. New York: HarperCollins, 1996.


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