In the short story, A Rose for Emily, William Faulkner presents Miss Emily to the readers, using a number of different literary strategies in doing so. He manages to entice his readers through his riveting writing and setting up the short story. Through his astonishing manipulation of plot, setting, point of view, description, and symbolism, Faulkner contributes to reinforcing the theme of his story, that some people possess an inert inability to change.
Faulkner explores Miss Emilys instable state of mind through a missed sequence of events. The plot of A Rose for Emily is quite unusual because it is not based on a linear line but instead moves backward and forward in time. By avoiding the chronological order of events of Emilys life, Faulkner first gives the readers a finished product, and then allows them to examine this puzzle piece by piece. For some readers, this non-chronological sequence of the events may seem rather confusing, but a closer reading may reveal the authors uniqueness in plot devices. The scrambled chronology not only enhances the readers interest by providing suspense, but also encourages them to be involved with the story as they are reordering the events and determining their logical connections. More importantly, the interesting ordering of the plot contributes to reinforcing one of the storys central themesthe theme of time and changes, showing the readers how powerful an impact the past and its traditions exert on the townspeople who have given up on living in the present. In addition, this unconventional plot line helps to enrich the central characterMiss Emily, who is unwilling to accept the fact that the world around her and the people in it have changed. Readers can see just how Miss Emily feels physically and psychologically trapped and repressed.
The story is set primarily inside, which gives the story a rather interior and closed-in setting. Miss Emilys house plays a role in her psychological development. Emilys house is described as 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 whose front door remained closed. The house has a dim hall from which a stairway mounted into still more shadow. It smelled of dust and disusea close, dank smell. The house is all that has been left to her after her fathers death. She went out very little, her front door had remained closed almost for good; people hardly saw her at all, and the only sign of life about the place was the Negro man going in and out with a market basket. For Miss Emily, the house is in a nutshell, a refuge, a fortress and a hiding place, and the house is also a symbol of the Souths past glory. Emily is trapped in the world of the past and at constant battle with the present era. She becomes a slave to her thoughts and her mind, refusing to accept the changing world around her. These descriptions of Miss Emilys house and how it changes over the years also suggest a great deal about her character, her isolated, repressed state of mind, her desire to stay in the past, and thus help to convey the storys central theme once more.
Quite deliberately, Faulkner chooses to interlace a first-person narrator we with the perspective of Emily herself so as to highlight the themes and the central character. In A Rose for Emily, Faulkner tells the story in first form plural we, where the narrator represents the folks in town, giving the readers a feeling that the description is the general perception. Right from the very first sentence the narrator says, our whole town went to her funeral. So we were not surprised when Homer Barronthe streets had been finished some time sincewas gone. We were a little disappointed that there was not a public blowing-off, but we believed that he had gone on to prepare for Miss Emilys coming, or to give her a chance to get rid of the cousins. By using we (instead of I), this anonymous narrator who serves as a witness to the storys events speaks on behalf of the townspeople and expresses their shared views of their neighbor, Miss Emily, conveying the theme of their struggle to cling tenaciously to the past and deny the changes. In addition, Faulkner uses a third person narrative to describe Emilys life, which enables the readers to find out many things about Miss Emilys past. For instance the death of her father, the love she has for Homer, how she feels the need for love and affection, and so forth.
The Faulkner uses descriptive words to state the theme of old age and isolation surrounding Miss Emily and basically every aspect of her otherwise mundane life, but he also uses symbolic images. One symbolic image that an author creates to illustrate the theme of isolation is the image of the house. Miss Emily has always been kept in confined environments that only her father knows what she will do.
The characteristics of Miss Emilys house symbolize her appearance as she becomes decrepit with time and neglect. The image of the house actually refers to Miss Emilys isolation from modern society, just like the house stood isolated from the rest of the other houses. By comparing the house to Miss Emily, the author illustrates the atmosphere that Miss Emily is as lifeless as the house itself. The house 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. Then it became an eyesore among eyesores. Miss Emily changed the same ways as her house did and she too became an eyesore. She had once been a slender figure in white and later she becomes bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water with eyes lost in the fatty ridges of her face. During Miss Emilys death she had been referred to as a fallen monument, which could mean she was once something beautiful and affluent but with time she grew old and impoverished.
There are many symbols that direct you to believe Miss Emily is still living in the past when she was in her prime with her father. She will not allow the town to put a house number on her home for the free postal service. She also tells the tax collectors to talk to Colonel Sartoris (who has been dead for ten years) to resolve her problem that she doesnt pay taxes. This is also shown with Emilys very few words she used to persuade the druggist to get the arsenic poison. Another particular symbol that exemplifies Miss Emilys ignorance and stubbornness towards time is her watch. This example involves Emily as an old woman with her gold watch around her neck. The watch hung so low that her belt hid it. It was described by the narrator as the invisible watch ticking at the end of her gold chain. This shows Miss Emilys neglect of time and yearning to live in the past.
Miss Emilys hair is used as a symbol throughout Faulkners story. Shortly after her fathers death, her hair changed to a short hairstyle that was being described by the narrator as looking angelic. This could possibly symbolize the freedom she occurred after her strict fathers death. She probably would have never changed her hairstyle if her father were around, or maybe wouldnt be allowed. As Emily grows older her hair color changes to iron-gray, like that of an active man. The color symbolizes her stubbornness not to change; this is shown because iron a really strong metal that is very stubborn. Emilys stubbornness is further supported with Faulkners paralleling her with her house, when the narrator personifies the house as being stubborn and coquettish.
"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 gasoline pumps." Stubborn in her ways of the Old South, Miss Emily refuses to modernize. Miss Emily and her home, stand alone among the rest of the new industrializing neighborhood.
In his short story, A Rose for Emily, William Faulkner is successful in attracting the readers attention through his use of literary elements such as manipulation of plot, setting, point of view, description, and symbolism. His unique style provokes the reader to keep focused in trying to understand the main idea of the story while building suspense on that same front. All of these elements that he uses contribute greatly to the overall conveyance of one of the stories themes, the desire or inability for one not to change. Faulkner could not have possibly done a better job at creating such a fascinating piece of short fiction.