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The Central Theme and Symbolism of William Faulkner's A Rose for Emily Essay

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William Faulkner's central theme in the story "A Rose For Emily" is to let go of the past. The main character in the story, Emily Grierson, has a tendency to cling to the past and has a reluctance to be independent. Faulkner uses symbols throughout the story to cloak an almost allegorical correlation to the reconstruction period of the South. Even these symbols are open to interpretation; they are the heart and soul of the story. With the literal meaning of Faulkner's story implies many different conclusions, it is primarily the psychological and symbolic aspects, which give the story meaning.

Miss Emily cannot accept change to any degree. She is unable to ameliorate as the rest of the society does. The Old South is becoming the New South, and yet Emily still has a Negro man helping around the house. Her house "had once been white" and sits on what "had once been" a most select street, however now it is surrounded by cotton gins, garages, and gasoline pumps. This scene creates a sense of the house being "an eyesore among eyesores" (469). Another example of Miss Emily's ability to refuse change is when she does not allow a house number to be placed on her house when the town receives free postal service.

Emily's father denies her the freedom to establish relationships with men. In fact, Emily was denied her ?rose.? A rose if often referred to as a symbol of everlasting love between a man and a woman. Since her father denies her the chance to court men, she has no chance to even fall in love. "We had long thought of them as tableau, Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the...


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...the point where he was inextricable in the bed.

?Then we noticed that in the second pillow was the indentation of a head. One of us lifted something from it, leaning forward, that faint and invisible dust dry and acrid in the nostrils, we saw a long stand of iron gray hair? (475). Miss Emily has apparently poisoned Homer for fear of him leaving her. She loved him so much, that she would have rather him lay dead in her house than to have a broken-heart. Instead of grieving as a normal person would, Miss Emily turns into a psychotic crazed lover. For many years, Emily must have lain next to him in an embrace. She wanted to preserve her love, and this further proves her unwillingness to change.

Work Cited

Faulkner, William. "A Rose for Emily." Literature For Composition. 6th Ed. Sylvan Barnet, Burto, Cain, Stubbs, Et. Al. New York: Longman, 2003. 621-631.


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