William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" is a dynamic story about the life and times of Emily Grierson. The story takes place in the post-Civil War era. The writing style presents the story and events in non-chronological order. Faulkner uses hidden meanings and symbolism in his writing of this short story. He is actually drawing the reader a picture of the Old South and how Miss Emily refuses to adapt to the New South. The story's narrator is one of the townspeople, who represent the ever-changing New South.
Throughout this story, Emily refuses to accept that the south is changing and continues to live in the past. "A Rose for Emily" is chock full of symbolism. Faulkner uses symbolism to reflect the change in Miss Emily's position in society, the physical degradation of Miss Emily and her house, her inability to accept change and her everlasting love for Homer Baron, The story begins with Miss Emily's funeral. Miss Emily herself is a symbol of the Old South and the traditions passed down through her family. She comes from a well to do southern family people always is treat with respect. Their home is large, stylish and sits alongside some of the best homes in Jefferson.
The Grierson name holds some power in the town of Jefferson. Faulkner symbolizes Emily's power when he refers to her non-payment of taxes even after the Aldermen called upon her. "But there is nothing on the books to show that, you see."We must go by the-."See Colonel Sartoris. I have no taxes in Jefferson."But, Miss Emily -- ."See Colonel Sartoris (Colonel Satoris had been dead almost 10 years). I have no taxes in Jefferson" (Faulkner 30). This also signifies her inability to change.
Even though Colonel Satoris is dead, Miss Emily is relying on her family name and the promise of the Colonel. Miss Emily does not have to pay taxes and she "vanquishes them" (30). When Miss Emily purchases the arsenic, her power is evident in the communications with the druggist. It takes very few words for Miss Emily to get the arsenic. Faulkner symbolizes the decline of her position in society within the town of Jefferson by the way the townspeople refer to Miss Emily.
Miss Emily's reputation of status and power changes upon the death of her father. "Being left alone, and a pauper, she had become humanized. Now she too would know the old thrill and despair of a penny more or less" (31). Her scandalous relationship with Homer further degrades her reputation with the townspeople. "Of course a Grierson would not think seriously of a Northerner, a day laborer" (31).
The townspeople become so upset over the relationship between Miss Emily and Homer that the minister calls upon Miss Emily's relatives to intervene. The cousins come to town and stay with Miss Emily. There are rumors that Homer and Miss Emily are now married and the townspeople think that the cousins are responsible for the marriage. "They are married."We were really glad.
We were glad because the two female cousins were even more Grierson that Miss Emily had ever been" (33). Faulkner uses the comparison between Miss Emily's house and her physical and mental health to symbolize her unwillingness to change. It also represents further decline in her social status.