This is another short story of Faulkner's in which the death of Miss Emily brings together the entire population of Jefferson. Jefferson is the main town in Faulkner's fictional county. Faulkner uses setting and a great deal of symbolism to narrate this story. Miss Emily was raised in the period before the Civil War in the south. An unnamed narrator, who seems to be the voice of the whole town, calls attention to key moments in her life, including the death of her father and her brief relationship with a man from the north named Homer Barron. In this short story; "A Rose For Emily" Faulkner uses symbolism, foreshadowing and physical setting to describe the life of Miss Emily.
The story basically addresses the symbolic changes in the south after the Civil War. The physical setting of Miss Emily's house symbolizes neglect in the new times in the town of Jefferson. She and her antiquated home were almost a shrine to Southern gentility and an ideal of past values. She and her home were depicted as susceptible to death and decay.
Through this imagery Faulkner was symbolizing the demise of the way of life of the old, pre-industrial, pre-civil war south. Beginning with Miss Emily Grierson's funeral, throughout the story Faulkner foreshadows the ending and suspenseful events in Miss Emily's life using physical setting and symbolism. The continuing symbolism and Faulkner's descriptions of the decaying house coincide with Miss Emily's physical and emotional decay. "[O]nly miss Emily's house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps-an eyesore among eyesores" (Faulkner 73). As an example, the house is in an area of town that was once a prominent neighborhood that has now deteriorated. Originally the house was a big white house with large balconies, and the yard was decorated with beautiful flowers.
But now the people of the town think that the house has become an embarrassment to the town. This happened through a lack of attention. The house has deteriorated from a beautiful estate to an ugly shack. Similarly, Miss Emily has also become an eyesore in various ways. Emily though was held to the code of "noblesse oblige" (Faulkner 75). This meant that even in dire need, Emily would never reveal her true feelings to the common folk of Jefferson.
So she distorts time, refusing to accept the fact that her father was dead: "The day after his death all the ladies prepared to call at the house and offer condolence and aid, as is our custom. Miss Emily met them at the door, dressed as usual and with no trace of grief on her face. She told them that her father was not dead. She did that for three days, with the ministers calling on her, and the doctors, trying to persuade her to let them dispose of the body. Just as they were about to resort to law and force, she broke down, and they buried her father quickly" (Faulkner 75). "[T]he men through a sort of respectful affection for a monument" (Faulkner 72).
She is described as a "fallen monument" to suggest her former beauty and her later ugliness. Her lover for a brief time, Homer, described himself as a man who cannot be tied down and is always on the move. This leaves Miss Emily in a terrible position. As the story comes to a close, Emily seems to prove Homer wrong.
Miss Emily poisons poor old Homer. After killing him she puts him in one of the upstairs bedrooms. When Miss Emily dies the townspeople, who were anxious to see what was in miss Emily's house found a real nice surprise when they went snooping around in her house. They found the dead body of poor Homer lying on the bed in one of the bedrooms.
"The violence of breaking down the door seemed to fill this room with pervading dust. A thin, acrid pall as of the tomb seemed to lie everywhere upon this room decked and furnished as for a bridal: upon the valence curtains of faded rose color, upon the rose-shaded lights, upon the dressing table, upon the delicate array of crystal and the man's toilet things backed with tarnished silver, silver so tarnished that the monogram was obscured. Among them lay a collar and tie, as if they had just been removed, which, lifted, left upon the surface a pale crescent in the dust. Upon a chair hung the suit, carefully folded; beneath it the two mute shoes and the discarded socks. The man himself lay in the bed" (Faulkner 72). The town ladies continue to show sympathy towards Emily, although she never hears of it verbally.
She is well aware of the distant whispers that begin when her presence is near. Some of the major contributing factors to Emily's behavior are gossip and whisper. These may have been the causes for her behavior. The theme of Faulkner's story is simple. Miss Emily cannot accept the fact that times are changing and society is growing and changing with the times.
As times change, she isolates herself from the rest of the town, using her butler to run her errands so she does not have to talk much. The setting of the story is very important because it defines Miss Emily's tight grasp on the old southern ways and unchanging behavior. Just as the house seems to reject progress and updating, so does Miss Emily, until both of them become decaying symbols of their dying generation. Through descriptions of the house and the resemblance of the descriptions of Miss Emily, "A Rose for Emily" emphasizes that beauty and elegance can become distorted through negligence and a lack of love and affection. As the house deteriorates for forty years until it becomes ugly and unappealing, Miss Emily's physical appearance and emotional well-being decays in the same way (Faulkner 72-78).
The southern culture in all of Faulkner's works bring out a comedic aspect in the stories, and the continuous usage of the same characters in various stories allows for Faulkner to enter twine his stories to where they are all dealing with the people of Yoknapatawpha County in the northern regions of Mississippi. In conclusion, the southern culture in all of Faulkner's works bring out a comedic aspect in this stories. Faulkner successfully used physical setting and symbolism to give this story a perfect and smooth finish.