Connecting Symbols in A Rose for Emily

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The literary world contains a vast collection of works, each employing diverse techniques in writing. One technique commonly found in literature is the use of images and symbols. Symbols are sometimes complex and contain both literal and figurative significance. Symbolism in literature is commonly used to bind the attributes of an object with various segments of a story to provide the reader with a deeper understanding and sometimes hidden meaning. In the short story, “A Rose for Emily” William Faulkner utilizes a vast collection of symbols, as a means to enhance the reader’s visual perceptions but also prompts consideration into theories of motive surrounding the murder of Homer Barron.

Modeled after the post-civil war era of the American south, Falkner transports the reader to the fictitious town of Jefferson and into the home of Miss Emily Grierson, a mysterious figure and longtime resident of Yoknapatawpha County. While the story begins with the death of Miss Emily, Faulkner invites the reader to step backwards through time where one is acquainted with Emily’s struggle to find a love and happiness in an emerging modern society. Faulkner then returns to Emily’s death, revealing a dark secret found in the shape of the decomposed corpse of Homer Barron, Emily’s one love interest who was thought to have abandoned her many years earlier. Throughout the story, Faulkner ties common objects such as a rose, a house, a watch on a gold chain, rat poison, and even the character Homer himself to other elements of the story. It is through these associations, the reader finds deeper understanding and perhaps hidden meaning.

The Rose

The first use of symbolism is found in the title as a solitary rose. Since the story begins with t...

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...der meaning of character but perhaps conclusions on the secret motive behind the murder of Homer Barron.

Works Cited

Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” Making Literature Matter with 2009 MLA Update: An Anthology for Readers and Writers. 4th ed. Schilb, John, and John Clifford New York: Bedford/St. Martins, 2009. 667 - 674. Print

Scherting, Jack. "Emily Grierson’s Oedipus Complex: Motif, Motive, and Meaning in Faulkner’s ‘A Rose for Emily'." Studies in Short Fiction 17.4 (1980): 397-405.

Skinner, John L. “‘A Rose for Emily’: Against Interpretation,” The Journal of Narrative Technique, Volume 15, No. 1, Winter, 1985, pp. 42–51. Retrieved from

Towner, Theresa M., and James B. Carothers. Reading Faulkner. Collected Stories: Glossary and Commentary. University Press of Mississippi, 2006. 63-73 eBook Collection.
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