A Rose for Emily Brief Analysis
In its entirety, A Rose for Emily is a story depicting how a large majority of women struggle in the society they are a part of, surmounting judgments which seek to cripple their actions and beliefs and turning these judgments as pedestals to reaffirm their stalwart presence in what appears to be a patriarchal society.
Emily Grierson, the key figure in William Faulkner’s classic story, is the modern epitome of the struggling woman. The author’s use of the Southern setting provides a backdrop for the common attribution of the South with the conservative beliefs of people. On one hand, the novel’s heroine is portrayed as a woman who shares an intimate relationship with a younger man, Homer, and putting-up a strain of effort to stand proud and keep her head high. On the other, Emily is deemed as a notable figure in her community and has for herself a reputation that has made her, along with her father’s status, a constant point of judgment in the eyes of the community. The key ingredients in analyzing the symbolism behind A Rose for Emily are thus given: a conservative Southern setting and a black woman with a reputation to keep and an affair with a younger man to maintain.
Moreover, the ‘stench’ created by the rotting carcass of Homer in Emily’s room symbolizes another interesting point. The ghastly fumes symbolize the thought that no bad deed can remain a mystery forever. Eventually, the neighborhood knew of Emily’s secret: Homer’s body was kept hidden inside Emily’s room. No matter how hard Emily tried to hide her deed, time eventually took its toll on her. After she died, strings of secrets and other interesting facts were revealed about the life and romance of Emily.
It appears at first that Faulkner is giving the readers the impression that romance for a black woman in earlier times, especially in conservative societies in which reputation is synonymously attributed to respect from others, is a carefully scrutinized ‘thing’. The fact that Emily engaged herself in a relationship with a younger man symbolizes the thought that social reputation is worth risking all for the name of intimacy, an intimacy which she wanted to keep even after death. It further symbolizes how women during those days face the challenge of maintaining what seems to be a heavily criticized relationship. It shows us how reputation is overwhelmingly subjugated under the terms of romance and intimacy from an aging woman whose physical power may be all too weak yet the emotional desires remaining as vibrant as her younger days.
From the standpoint of romanticism, the situation which besets Emily is uncommon. That is, taking death as a means to cheat death and keeping her emotions in place through eternity and beyond life, itself may be tragic enough but is at the same time a testament to the power of love. Through the twilight of her life, the fact that Emily has kept ‘things’ locked in her house and away from the inquisitive and judgmental eyes of the public symbolizes the trade-off of things for women in most relationships during Faulkner’s time. To say the least: maintain a potentially scandalous relationship and one is bound to reap a bitter harvest from the public opinion.
Further, Faulkner’s classic story symbolizes how a woman is willing to embrace death if only to keep the meaning of her life: her lover. Without hesitation and doubt—in fact, with firm conviction—Emily purchased rat poison to the surprise and doubt of the store owner. Eventually, Emily used the poison to kill Homer. These things go to show how some women if not all before a conservative society become liberated from the social rules, norms, and public opinion in personal, decisive, and troubling times.
For the most part, the poison Emily used to kill Homer symbolizes her love for the man. Her love is as intense as the strength of the poison, powerful enough to surmount the harsh judgments of people and to remain until her dying days. On the other hand, her love, like poison, is equally deadly; enough to take away life and to disable the victim from making any further move or attempt of escaping.
The things found in Emily’s room after her death are strong indicators of how strong her love has become for Homer, reminding the reader how an old woman can be able to manipulate the effects of her deeds and keep the root of the ‘stench’ away from the hungry and prowling eyes of those who surround her life. It symbolizes not only the compelling force of an intimate feeling; more to that, it symbolizes how a person whose feelings are flagged down by insecurity is more than willing to take extreme measures just to secure that the thing—or, in Emily’s case, the person—or the very source of one’s passionate feelings does not slip away from one’s reach.
The efforts of Emily tell us one thing in general; it tells us Faulkner’s vision of a female strength amidst an inquisitive society and its wanton obscenity. A Rose for Emily symbolizes the struggles of women in love and in the face of social criticism, one can hardly doubt the thought that Emily is perhaps the symbol for the struggling female. Being a black woman in a conservative Southern society is enough to presume that Emily is the symbol for the woman trying to take control of an overpowering situation with what little strength remains in her aging hands.
Moreland, Richard C. “Faulkner, and Modernism.” The Cambridge Companion to William
Faulkner. Ed. Philip M. Weinstein. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995. 20.