A Rose for Emily
A Rose for Emily is a short story by an American writer, William Faulkner. The story was first published in April 30, 1930 issue of Forum. The same story was afterwards published in Faulkner’s two other short story collections, These 13, published in 1931 and Collected Stories in 1950, with a slight variation.
It is the story of Emily Grierson and her bizarre relationship with her lover, her father and about her secret which is revealed at the end of the story. It is a story which inspires the critics and the common readers alike (Gregory, 1950).
A Rose for Emily, like many other stories of Faulkner, took place in the town of
. A Rose
for Emily is often considered as a ghost story but many scholars rated it
as an extremely versatile work of fiction (Morton, 2005). Mississippi
The story was told in five sections by a narrator. In the beginning of section four of the story, Emily visited the drug store of town and purchased arsenic without giving reason why she was purchasing it. Citizens of
that Emily is going to commit suicide because Homer, who was the lover of Emily
was mysteriously disappeared years ago. After his disappearance, Emily gained
weight and looked aged and finally died.
The fifth section of the story starts with some women of the town entered into Emily’s House. They discovered a room in the house with dusty furniture and a skeleton of a man was lying on the bed. For their astonishment, they had noticed the remains of a female with long iron gray hair laid next to him.
Irony and Symbolism in the story
Irony of a story is to present something which is totally against the expectations of the readers. William Faulkner had used situations as well as symbolism to create irony in the story. Especially the technique of situational irony, where such situations were created which were completely against the expectations of the readers, was really palpable in the story. This is a very well-written story where symbolism has been very masterly used.
First of all the title of the story is an irony. William Faulkner said about the title that it “was an allegorical title; the meaning was, here was a woman who had had a tragedy, an irrevocable tragedy and nothing could be done about it, and I pitied her and this was a salute…to a woman you would hand a rose (Jelliffe, 1966; p. 125).
Emily’s love for Homer was an irony because Emily was southerner and her falling in love for a northerner was an irony. She was also planning to marry him which was also an irony considering the attitude of people of that time, because Southerners and Northerners were completely against each other. She was in a mental shock when she discovered that Homer had no plan to marry her. She, due to her peculiar mental and emotional state thought that she, by entombing her lover, would keep her ecstasy and marital pleasure forever.
. In the beginning of section four of the story, Emily visited the drug store of town and purchased arsenic. The readers expect that this arsenic was purchased by Emily for committing suicide as hinted in the story by the people of Jefferson because Homer had ditched Emily but the readers was shocked after reading the end when they learn that Homer was murdered by Emily. William Faulkner had ended the story at a shocking note by saying, “Then we noticed that in the second pillow was the indentation of a head. One of us lifted something from it, and leaning forward, that faint and invisible dust dry and acrid in the nostrils, we saw a long strand of iron-gray hair” (Kirszner & Mandell, 1994; p. 77).
Mr. Eric Knickerbocker in his critique on the story A rose for Emily asserts that, “In the opening characterization, many descriptive words foreshadow the ultimate irony at the climatic ending: “her skeleton was small and sparse,” “she looked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water, and of that pallid hue”. We learn that “her voice was dry and cold” and that she did not accept no for an answer. Her house, a fading photograph, “smelled of dust and disuse—a closed, dank smell,” and when her guests are seated a “faint dust” rises “sluggishly about their thighs”. All of these terms suggest neglect, decay, entropy: each of these elements tie in with the surface layer as well as the deeper themes upon which Faulkner tiers” (Knickerbocker, 2003).
Faulkner also presented the irony of class system of a southern town in this story. Emily was an heiress of huge estate and belonged to the upper class of southern social system but, on the other hand, she committed an atrocious murder and lost her mind. Thus, this story is also a symbolic criticism on the irony of class system that was existed at that time.
In the whole story the events of death were presented in a manner which was overshadowed by different elements like buying arsenic without any proper reason, or sudden disappearance of Homer and the smell which was continuously coming from Emily’s home. The end of the story revealed the peculiar character of Emily. She, by entombing her lover, tries to keep her ecstasy and marital pleasure forever.
William Faulkner’s style of story telling has also created an irony. He narrated the story without taking care of chronological order and the story started from the end, the first sentence of the story was, “When Miss Emily died, our whole town went to her funeral” (Faulkner, 1990; p.1) . Then the story was narrated in the flash back which makes the readers to keep glued to the story.
The lushness in the style of Writing of this story is also ironic. Emily enjoyed a high position and status in the society but she never went outside of her house to enjoy the privileges the life had bestowed upon her. Thus, the lushness of style was actually the lack of it, which was also an irony of William Faulkner’s style.