A Rose For Emily

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“When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral” (Faulkner 1). As a rhetorical analyst, in the reading “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner there is an overall hidden message of Emily’s resistance to accept change. There are many causes that led her to turn out this way. Faulkner uses symbolism, secret, and change to relay these messages to the reader.

To begin with, Faulkner uses symbolism, Emily’s father and lover, to show that she was unable to change because of them. In the story, Emily’s father was very sheltering and did not allow her to go out very much. Being left without any freedom, she was unable to become independent. She became dependent on her father that she was unable to keep her life going without him. When the gentlemen came to her door to collect her taxes Emily said “See Colonel Sartoris, I have no taxes in Jefferson” (2). In the reading it mentions how Colonel Sartoris has been dead for almost ten years. This quote shows that the only life she knew was the one when her father did everything for her. She did not know how to adapt to the change that she now had taxes to pay. The only response she knew to the problem was to show them out and not deal with it. Another example from the story shows how much Emily looked up to her father, “On a tarnished gilt easel before the fireplace stood a crayon portrait of Miss Emily’s father” (1). Her father is still watching over her even though he is dead. Because of her dad’s protective behavior, Miss Emily was never able to live life without him. He was a huge part of her life. The only other man Emily ever grew to know was Homer Barron. After Emily’s funeral when the townspeople went to her house to see what was inside they found Homer’s dead body lying on the bed. They found an unexpected surprise. “Then we notices, 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”(7). Homer was poisoned by Miss Emily so that he would never be able to leave her. By sleeping next to him every night, it showed that she was resisting change and acted as if he was still alive. The people in a person’s life shape out how that person would turn out to be.

One can analyze “A Rose for Emily” by examining the underlying hidden message found within the story. The hidden message that William Faulkner tried to convey in his story was the themes of death and change. Death looms through the story from the beginning right on through to the end as the narrator begins describing the beginning of Miss Emily’s funeral. Miss Emily herself chooses not to accept the fate of death when her extremely controlling father passes away. “Miss Emily met them at the door, dressed` as usual and with no trace of grief on her face. She told them that her father was not dead” (Faulkner). This quote from “A Rose for Emily” clearly shows how Miss Emily tried to defy death by holding on to her father’s corpse and treating it as if he were still living and how fearful she was of change. She later killed Homer to ensure that he would never leave her. Miss Emily continually tried to prevent any sort of change through death or other means from occurring in her town. She was so frightened of change that she wouldn’t allow the city to put numbers on her house for mail. “Miss Emily alone refused to let them fasten the metal numbers above her door and attach a mailbox to it. She would not listen to them” (Faulkner). Through this quote one can see the struggle that Miss Emily had to maintain her traditions and her attempts to force the town to remain at a standstill. “What was left of him, rotted beneath what was left of the nightshirt, had become inextricable from the bed in which he lay; and upon him and upon the pillow beside him lay that even coating of the patient and biding dust” (Faulkner). This is Miss Emily’s most severe attempt to preserve her life and the time period in which she lived. She would rather have nothing than grief over something lost.


Lastly, you can also see Emily’s resistance to change in the tone of the story. The feeling of this story to the readers would be depressing. Emily is a woman, clearly not in the right state of mind, trying to fight against a new type of world that she just can’t beat. The narrator talked a lot about how Emily never had any visitors besides one negro man that brought groceries for her. “A few ladies had the temerity to call, but were not received, and the only sign of life about the place was the Negro man—a young man then—going in and out with a market basket”(Faulkner,2). This makes readers sad. Sad that Emily doesn’t want the company of other people, to try to lead her on the right path. Her father’s death and the man everyone thought she would marry left her. This sets the tone in a place where everything is going wrong for Emily, and she is depressed. She hid herself from the world because she hated it. When Emily went into the store to buy the poison, the tone of the story completely flips. Now everyone was thinking that Emily was going to kill herself, but they felt good about it. But as the story goes on, and they find out that Emily had really used it to kill her husband, the tone is flipped all over again. Depressed feelings that Emily was that demented to do that to her own husband, and then keep his body for that long. The narrator says “So the next day we all said she will kill herself, and we said it would be the best thing” (Faulkner, 5). Emily had changed this tone of the story many times, but never in a good way.

Emily was a very disturbed woman, and had many things wrong in her life. But it was all because of her resistance to change. Emily went through a lot in her life, but mostly was her own fault. From refusing to pay taxes, all the way to murdering her own husband, Emily would do anything to not have anything changed in her life. From the setting and change of the story, it was easy to see her resistance was strong. No one may ever understand what was really going through Emily’s mind about all this, but we do know that she died an unchanged woman.





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