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Essay about Theme of Death in William Faulkner's A Rose for Emily

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Theme of Death in William Faulkner's A Rose for Emily


William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" is a tragic tale of a Southern aristocrat, Miss Emily Grierson, who is the subject of a town's obsession.  The narrator, a member of the town, tells the story of what transpires in a decaying old Southern house that is always under the watchful eye of the townspeople.  They witness Miss Emily's life, her father's death, her turn to insanity and the death of both her and her lover.  The theme of death runs throughout this tale, which is understandable considering the events that take place in the story.  Faulkner uses foreshadowing to foretell events that will transpire later in the story.  Because of this foreshadowing, a reader may not be shocked when a strange turn in the story occurs, because, it may seem familiar to him.  Faulkner's first use of foreshadowing begins with the death of Miss Emily.  The main character does not usually die in the first sentence of most works of fiction, but here Faulkner is foretelling the deaths of other characters that will follow.  The reader will learn more about Emily's life and death as the story unfolds.

            Emily is only described when she is late in her life and then only as being like a "skeleton" in an "obese" body and looking "bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water".  Here, Faulkner is using simile in his description of Emily to foreshadow the skeletal remains of Homer, her lover, who is found dead later.  Miss Emily is not seen for years after the disappearance of Homer.  When she is finally seen, she is described as being fatter than before and with her hair beginning to turn gray.  Her hair continues to turning gray until it becomes "pepper and s...


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...s to see Miss Emily.  Faulkner has also foreshadowed Homer's death by the smell of death that arises from the Emily's house.  Faulkner has now foreshadowed all the events that await poor Homer.  The townspeople comment that "That was the last we saw of Homer Barron".  The most shocking event that transpires is when the townspeople find Homer's body lying in Emily's bed they also find one of Emily's gray hairs on the pillow next to him.  This is foreshadowed when Emily's dead body is found with "her gray head propped up on a pillow yellow and moldy with age and lack of sunlight".  Even in death Miss Emily was herself foreshadowed from the first line of the story.

Works Cited

Faulkner, William. "A Rose for Emily." The Norton Introduction to Literature. By Carl E. Bain, Jerome Beaty, and J. Paul Hunter. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1991: 69-76.


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