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Literary Review of “a Rose for Emily” Essay Sample

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Literary Review of “a Rose for Emily” Essay Sample

In “A Rose for Emily,” written by William Faulkner, Faulkner uses a lot of symbolism. As in most of Faulkner’s writings, he generates fictional stories from the South. This story has symbols that are reflected by changes going on around the time it was published. Slavery, taxes, marriage, and death are some of his key points. An important symbol in this story is Emily’s House. Faulkner lets us only see Emily’s house from the outside for most of the story. From the descriptions we are given, we can tell that the house was built in the late 1800s. To live in a house like this one right after the Civil War, usually meant the family came from money or was well respected. The narrator makes it very clear that the location of the house is “an eyesore among eyesores” or in other words, very out of place now surrounded by gas stations and garages rather than cotton fields. The fact the house was allowed to decay is a symbol that Emily doesn’t really want the house anymore. This is supported by how Emily keeps herself isolated from everything else in the town.

The house is also a symbol represented by the negro house keeper. We get the idea that Emily’s father earned his wealth from either freeing or laboring slaves (Shmoop). The taxes that the city is trying to get Emily to pay can be seen as a symbol for her father’s death. In context, the beginning of the twentieth century was when women mainly worked around the house and the money for the house was made by working men. Faulkner really does not explain why Emily got to keep the house in the will so the taxes could also be a symbol of Emily’s father’s control after death (Shmoop). Marriage is an idea that comes up a lot throughout the story. Faulkner made it very clear that Emily is expecting to get married and the townspeople also expect Emily to get married. During today’s time, marriage is not pressured nearly as much. This is really due to women’s rights; today women can do everything a man can do, therefore, women can support themselves financially, morally and they do not have to be dependent on their husbands.

In the beginning of the story, Emily is dependent on her father and after he died, she started to isolate herself. When her “sweetheart” left Emily, she really lost all hope. According to Faulkner, the townspeople “hardly saw her at all”. Marriage is a symbol of Emily’s unhappiness and could be the reason why she secludes herself from the city. Death is symbolized by the use of lime and arsenic. Lime is used today with dead bodies to kill the odor causing bacteria (Shmoop). This is very ironic as the neighbors had no idea there was a corpse in the upstairs room and they spread it all around the house because they were tired of the smell. Arsenic is well known for being odorless, colorless, and virtually undetectable by the victim. When Homer Barron told Emily that he liked guys, it made Emily very mad. Faulkner himself says Barron is not a nice guy. In the southern tradition, bad men are considered rats, and that what most likely lead to Barron’s death caused by “rat poison” (Shmoop).


Shmoop Editorial Team. “A Rose for Emily Symbolism, Imagery & Allegory” Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 16 Jan. 2013. Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” Collected Stories of William Faulkner. New York: Random House, 1950. 119-130.

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