A Rose for Emily Essay

(Symbolisms) A Rose for Emily is a short story by William Faulkner and revolves around a character d Emily Grierson. The story initiates with the funeral scene of Ms. Emily. Faulkner has used a series of symbolisms to illustrate the life of Emily, such as her house, hairstyle and also her rose. The short story, Hands, written by Sherwood Anderson explores the theme of the grotesque which means distortions or incongruities in appearance, shape and manner. The story has been told by the voice of a third person and symbolisms have been used to define the grotesque nature of the society. The Cask of Amontillado is also a short story by Edgar Allan Poe and is narrated by one character d Montresor. The story is on how he takes revenge on his friend, Fortunato over some insults that remain und. The story is full of symbolisms that the readers are compelled to decipher. The following analyzes the use of symbolisms by the authors of all these three stories. Emily house was built in the 1870s and by this it can be said that her father was a wealthy person after the Civil War. The narrator of the story has described it as an “eyesore among eyesores” (Faulkner, 1) which clearly proves that the narrator is not fond of the urban sprawl. The features of the house reflect the appearance of Emily. The house is in a state of decay just as Emily becomes frail with time and negligence. It has been described as follows:

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“…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 s of that neighborhood” (p.1). Emily in her earlier years had been “a slender figure in white” (Faulkner, 3). In her final years of life she becomes “bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water with eyes lost in the fatty ridges of her face” (Faulkner, 2). When she dies she is referred to as “fallen monument” which indicates that she was once rich and beautiful but with years had become weak and poor. There have been many symbols to portray Emily ignorance of time and willingness to live in the past. She does not have a house number for free postal service and she tells the tax collectors to speak with Colonel Sartoris, who was long dead, about her matter regarding non-payment of taxes. She wears a gold watch around her neck and it hangs so low that it gets hidden by her belt. Emily hair has also been used as symbols to describe her. She adopts a short hairstyle after her father death which indicates her sense of freedom from her strict father. As she becomes older with age, her hair becomes “iron-gray, like that of an active man”. (Faulkner, 6) This indicates her stubborn manner as an iron is a strong metal and does not blend easily. Lime and arsenic are two of the creepiest symbols in the story. Lime can be used for covering the smell of decaying bodies and here it is sprinkled when the neighbourhood complained of a foul smell around Emily house. Ironically, it could be seen that lime served no purpose because the smell stopped by itself or maybe the townsfolk got used to the smell. She buys arsenic from a local druggist and manages to buy it without any explanation although “law requires you to tell what you are going to use it for” (Faulkner, 5). The druggist writes on the packet “for rats”. Emily has this suspicion that Homer was not going to marry her and so most probably considers him a rat. The most ironic symbol of the story is its title. A rose symbolizes life, beauty and love, and all three of them are missing in Emily life since she forever wants to hold on to the past and does not possess any love or passion. (Melczarek, 237-242)

From the very first line of the story Hands the narrator gives conflicting descriptions. “Half decayed veranda” has been contrasted with “small frame house”. The man on whom the story is based has been described as “fat little old man” where “fat” and “little” are contrasting words. These descriptions create a setting that gives a feeling of incongruity and distortions. As the story progresses, the narrator describes the feelings of Wing Biddlebaum as “forever frightened and beset by a ghostly band of doubts, did not think of himself as in any way a part of the life of the town where he had lived for twenty years.” (Anderson) Wing only friend, George Williard, many times wants to ask about the hands. The narrator tells about Williard thoughts “there must be a reason for their strange activity and their inclination to keep hidden away” (Anderson). A narrator of a story is always defined as someone who can read the minds of the characters. He moves between the thoughts of Wing and George regarding the characteristics of the hands. So, when he narrates “The story of Wing Biddlebaum hands is worth a book in itself. Sympathetically set forth it would tap many strange, beautiful qualities in obscure men” (Anderson, 2) he is giving his own opinion on the qualities of Wing hands. The grotesque nature of Wing is portrayed by the symbolisms of his hands like “In Winesburg the hands had attracted attention merely because of their activity. . . They became his distinguishing feature, the source of his fame” (Anderson, 2). Wing hands are always moving. Sometimes, they move with a purpose of doing some constructive work. They also move when he speaks to emphasize his words. At other times, the hands move to touch another man or boy. As the story progresses, the grotesque nature of the hands is revealed. Wings was a teacher once and his real was Adolf Myers. In the evenings he used to go for walks with his s until dusk. During this time, the grotesque nature of the hands emerged when “Here and there went his hands, caressing the shoulders of the boys, playing about the tousled heads.” (Anderson, 4) In this way, he conveys his dreams in his s. Things take a turn when one schoolboy begins to imagine “unspeakable things” (Anderson, 5). He speaks of his imaginations to his parents as if they are real. Wings as a teacher, uses his hands to impart his dreams, but to the boy, they convey carnal lust. These incongruities of the hands make it a grotesque symbol. In one town, the hands are respected for their creativities, and in another town they are hated for their touch. In this way the story also depicts the grotesque nature of the society. The story tells that hands can create and inspire, but at the same time, hands can cause destructions and nightmares. At the end of the story Wing becomes a day laborer and “going timidly about and striving to conceal his hands”. (Anderson, 2) He tries to hide his hands, the same hands that were once inspiration for the town. He hides them because he feels that the hands are cause of his downfall (Elledge, 11-15). It is ironic because he earned fame in the town owing to his hands and their skills of creativity. Wings adores his s, but a “dim-witted” boy turns the love into something grotesque. In Poe work, the Montresor family coat of arms is described as “A huge human foot d’or, in a field azure; the foot crushes a serpent rampant whose fangs are imbedded in the heel”. (Poe, 6) Here it is clear that Fortunato is the snake that had bit Montresor, and now Montresor foot is coming down to crush Fortunato. There is also a motto that says “Nemo me impune lacessit” which means “Noone attacks me with impunity”. When the meaning of the motto is revealed the readers understand that the coat of arms is a fabrication made up by Montresor to hint at what he desires to do. Unfortunately, Fortunato does not catch the hint. The most important feature of the arms is its color azure which means sky blue. This color is not connected to darkness and death. It means freedom which is in complete contrast with the atmosphere of the catacomb where Montresor takes Fortunato. “The Cask” itself has a deeper meaning. It makes Montresor seem like a literary instrument rather than a human character. Montresor makes the readers understand themselves and others better by provoking emotional responses. It is possible for readers to relate with the character because like him most people have the urge to take revenge although few people go as far as committing murder. There are other symbolisms that are difficult to interpret. Fortunato comments on the vastness of the catacomb and Montresor implies that all the bones belong to his dead family members. The readers are never told about the last surviving members of the family. It is possible that Montersor has killed all of them. It is also possible that Montresor and his family are actually all killers and the catacomb contains bones of their victims, like Fortunato.

There is a third possibility that Montresor is not a Montresor after all. Maybe, he has killed the last members of Montresor family to steal their for his cunning schemes. In the beginning of the story, Montresor and Fortunato participate in a carnival which is festival of freedom. Later on, when they move into the catacomb, they go into smaller and fouler spaces that indicate that they are moving away from free air. At the end of the story Fortunato is trapped inside a crypt which has no exit and thus gets the last sense of freedom. Apparently, Montresor is a free man at the end of the story because he is alive and can do whatever he wishes. Ironically, the one thing that he wishes is to narrate this story. In doing so, psychologically he remains confined in the crypt along with Fortunato. (Stepp, 447-453) Interpretations of symbols in a story vary with the interpretations of its readers. The view of one reader can be in complete contrast to other readers. In the above stories, the symbolisms more often tell the characteristics of the central characters in a direct manner. The houses where they stay along with their lifestyle and manner of talking depict the weird psychologies of the characters. Hidden symbols and allegories make a story interesting to read as they absorb the readers into a thrilling world of fantasy.


1. Anderson, Sherwood, “Hands”, 1925, 23rd November, 2011 from: HYPERLINK “http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/Hand.shtml” http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/Hand.shtml

2. Elledge, Jim, “Dante’s Lovers in Sherwood Anderson’s Hands”, Studies in Short Fiction, (2002) 21.1 , pp.11-15, 23rd November, 2011, from: http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=1b278b7e-2376-4f74-9868-e457bffd6b3a 40sessionmgr110&vid=1&hid=111

3. Faulkner, William, “A Rose for Emily”, 1930, 23rd November, 2011 from: http://web.me.com/mstultz72/home/Faulkner_files/A 20Rose 20for 20Emily 20 28full 20text 29.pdf

4. Poe, Edgar Allan, “The Cask of Amontillado”, 1846, 23rd November, 2011 from: http://www.ibiblio.org/ebooks/Poe/Amontillado.pdf

5. Melczarek, Nick, “Narrative Motivation in Faulkner A Rose for Emily”, Explicator, (2009) 67.4, pp.237-242, 23rd November, 2011, from: http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=8e8b85cd-5b4b-4eba-a810-63becd882ab8 40sessionmgr111&vid=2&hid=111

6. Stepp, Walter, “The Ironic Double in Poe The Cask of Amontillado”, Studies in Short Fiction, (1976) 13.4, pp.447-453, 23rd November, 2011 from: http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=fb5d7ba0-01af-4aac-8bd3-6f218ddfe8b4 40sessionmgr104&vid=1&hid=111