Symbols and Symbolism in The Yellow Wallpaper and A Rose for Emily

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Symbolism in The Yellow Wallpaper and A Rose for Emily

   William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" and Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" hold numerous similarities. Both stories show the influences of society and the slow decay on a particular woman. The title of each piece becomes important to the plot and ultimate outcome. In several ways, each title takes shape to portray symbolism in one sense or another. The references to color identify contradictory messages to those who have not heard of these stories, while the title itself takes physical form and is "living" at some point in the piece.


     When first assigned to read "The Yellow Wallpaper," a student may think of a bright, cheerful paper covered room. Little does he realize that, instead of a stereotypical yellow, the wallpaper's "color is...almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow" (Gilman15). It reminds the narrator of "all the yellow things [she] ever saw--not beautiful ones... but old foul, bad yellow things" (23). According to Carol Westcamp, "the author designed the be yellow for a reason" ("Smouldering"). Even though "yellow is often viewed as a cheerful, joyful color...[it] can also cause unpleasant, exciting, and hostile moods due its symbolism" (Westcamp). The wallpaper takes on a distinctive odor that " 'creeps all over the house,' drenching every room in its subtle aroma of decay" (Gilbert 35). The only thing the narrator "can think of that [the smell] is like is the color of the paper! A yellow smell" (Kivo 23). The narrator feels herself being drawn closer to the brink of insanity by the maddening color and begs her husband to do something about the paper, but he simply laughs at her.


     As the...

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...apy. New York: University Books, 1961.


Dillon, George L. "Styles of Reading." Polk 47-62.


Gilbert, Sandra M. and Susan Gumar. "The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth Century Literary Imagination." New Haven: Yale UP, 1979. Kivo 44-46.


Kivo, Carol, ed. The Harcourt Brace Casebook Series in Literature: "The Yellow Wallpaper." Fort Worth: Harcourt, 1997.


Polk, Noel, ed. William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily." The Harcourt Casebook Series in Literature. Fort Worth: Harcourt, 2000.


Scherting, Jack. "Emily Grierson's Oedipus Complex: Motif, Motive, and Meaning in Faulkner's 'A Rose for Emily.'" Polk, 110-119.


Westcamp, Carol. "A Smouldering Unclean Yellow: An Analysis of 'The Yellow Wallpaper.'" Online. Ixquick. 4 Mar. 2002.


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