A Rose for Emily is a short story by William Faulkner. Throughout this story about murder, Faulkner uses many symbols to represent a theme about leaving or breaking traditions. Among these symbols are the crayon portrait of Miss Emily’s father, Emily’s house, and the long strand of iron-gray hair that found on the pillow next to Homer’s body.
In the first chapter of the story, Faulkner states “On a tarnished gilt easel before the fireplace stood a crayon portrait of Miss Emily’s father.” (Faulkner 1009) Although Emily’s father passed away thirty- two years prior to the time of this story, Emily kept the crayon portrait of her father on a tarnished gilt easel. Emily’s father was overprotective to the point that she is isolated from the world. He drove all her potential suitors away because he did not feel like anyone was good enough for his little girl. Throughout the story, Emily’s father has a significant influence on her life, which is represented by the crayon portrait. Moreover, the crayon portrait is a symbol of Emily looking to her past for help.
In addition, Emily’s house is an important symbol in this story. We, like the townspeople, only see Miss Emily’s house from the outside looking in. The narrator’s description of the house: “It was a big, squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies, set on what had once been our most select street. But garages and cotton gins had encroached and obliterated even the august names of that neighborhood; only Miss Emily’s house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps—” (Faulkner 1009). The house is also a symbol of the opposite of what it’s supposed to be. However, Emily wanted a house she could love someone in. The house is a symbol of her isolation.
The final symbol is the long strand of iron-gray hair that found on the pillow next to Homer’s body. In the final lines of the story, Faulkner notes “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.” (Faulkner 1015). In addition, the strand of hair that found on the pillow next to Homer’s dead body represents Emily’s spirit in a way that she is saying, I may be gone, but I am still here.
Finally, if there is something we should learn from Faulkner ‘s symbolization is that life is too short to think about the past. We have to learn how to live and forget.
- Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Shorter 9th, edited by Robert S. Levine, Vol. 2, pp. 1009-1015. New York: Norton, 2017. Print
- Nebeker, Helen E. ‘Emily’s Rose of Love: Thematic Implications of Point of View in Faulkner’s ‘A Rose for Emily.’ ‘ Bulletin of the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association, vol. 24 no. 1, 1970, p. 3-13. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/rmr.1970.0018.
- Shmoop Editorial Team. ‘The House in A Rose for Emily.’ Shmoop. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 20 Oct. 2019.