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A Rose For Emily Rhetorical Analysis

“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, setting, and language 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 so 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 to pay taxes. 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 in 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 should was resisting change and acted as if he was still alive. The people in someone’s life have a big impact on how they turn out.

Continuing on, Faulkner uses setting and the time period to show why Miss Emily had such a hard time accepting change and moving on. The story takes place right before the Civil War. Most African Americans were hated and discriminated against but Emily was relieved of that because of her father. “Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town dating from that day in 1894 when Colonel Sartoris, the mayor—he who fathered the edict that no Negro woman should appear on the streets without an apron-remitted her taxes”(1). Money determined social status during this time period. Since Emily’s father was able to loan the town money, she became a well respected person in the town, even after his death. Having money also means that Emily should have acted a certain way. She should have kept her head up high and moved on after her dad’s death instead of continuing to be sheltered. She chose to not come out of her house for long periods of time. When the people in the town finally saw her she looked very different. “When we saw her again, her hair was cut short, making her look like a girl, with a vague resemblance to those angels in colored church windows—sort of tragic and serene”(3). Emily tried to pull herself together eventually and attempted to move on. Many found it tragic because they knew she had set herself up for failure. It is impossible to go from a completely sheltered life to independent in such a short time. The hard expectations of women of that time period gave no support in helping Emily adapt to change.

Lastly, the author uses language to convey the overall message of the story that Miss Emily can not adapt to change. The author’s choice of words relates to Emily’s inability to let go of her father’s death. “A thin, acrid pall as of the tomb seemed to lie everywhere upon this room decked and furnished as for a bridal” (6). A pall is a blanket that is normally put over a coffin and the word acrid is used to describe something that smells bad. Emily is using the pall as a memory of her father and is pretty much putting it on display. The word acrid is used to refer to the smell that came from the house after she chose to keep her father’s dead body. Another example from the story is the context of the word rose when it is used throughout the story. “Upon the valance curtains faded rose color, upon the rose-shaded lights” (6). There is a quote that says “you see life through a rose-colored glass.” When someone says this they mean that someone does not see the reality of life. Emily had so many problems seeing reality. She kept dead bodies in the house and lived as if no one had ever passed away. The use of the word rose is meant to say that her house is as fake as the way she sees things. She believes life is perfect and it will always be that way. Obviously life is never going to be perfect. The author’s word choice relays the message of what is going through Emily’s mind and why she has trouble changing.

All in all, the reading “A Rose for Emily” has an overall message of the main character’s resistance to change. Symbolism, setting, and language are used to prove this to the reader. As a rhetorical critic, hidden secrets were found in the story. The people in her life, the time period, and the description of Emily were perfect ways of showing this to the audience.


Works Cited
Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily”





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