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The Civil War was from 1861-1865. The outcome of the war and the war itself impacted not only the people of that era, but also American literature. Authors infused the ways of the northern and southern people into their works like a baker folding food coloring into batter to make a delicious confetti cake. For example, in "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner, Faulkner writes "and now miss Emily had gone to join the represtatives of those august names where they lay in the cedar-bunds cemetery among the ranked and anonymous graves of the union and confederate soldiers who fell at the battle of Jefferson."(89). In Faulkner's short story the aftermath of the historical event, the civil war, is seen in the symbolism he uses throughout the short story, his character Emily, and his view of the south.
In "A Rose for Emily" symbolism is used to show the effects of the civil war on the south and to lay a deeper meaning in the short story. At the beginning of this story the house is old, worn down, and out of style. It is described to have "once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the lightsome style of the seventies."(Faulkner 89). The house can symbolize the fall of the old south and the fallout of southern traditions since the civil war. The house also symbolizes the break down of miss Emily emotionally and physically over the years. Back when Emily's father died the house was still in good condition and kept up with, Emily also kept up with herself. She was young and considered a proper southern belle. When miss Emily dies she is old and her hair has turned gray. Just as Emily is stubborn so is the house. She refused to accept the modern ideas, "when the town got free postal delivery miss Emily alone refused to let them fasten the metal numbers above her door and attach a mailbox to it."(Faulkner 93), as it seems the house rejected updating with the new advances. A couple symbols to tell that time was passing are Miss Emily's pocket watch and her hair. The pocket watch is only mentioned once in the story. It was when the Board of Aldermen went to her house to collect taxes. They were in the living room and after the board was done talking, " then thru could hear the invisible watch ticking at the end of the gold chain."(Faulkner 90). The ticking is a sign that time never stops and that southern ideals are changing. Emily's hair turned gray over the years, "when we next saw muss Emily, she had grown hatband her hair was turning gray. During the next few years it grew grayer and grayer until it creased turning."(Faulkner 93). This showed time passing by. Homer Barron in this short story symbolizes a rat and the north. Homer symbolizes a rat to Emily when she found out "he was not a marrying man"(Faulkner 92). He most likely wouldn't have kept a promise to marry her so to Emily arsenic was a good choice of poison to kill him with. The druggist wrote a note of the box of arsenic 'For rats!'(Faulkner 92). Homer also symbolizes the north because he is from the north and has northern ideals. He portrays the northern ideals moving into the south. A rose from the title "a rose for Emily" symbolizes preservation. Homer is the rose when Emily kills him and keeps him in her room. The room has "valance curtains of faded rose color, upon the rose-shaded lights"(Faulkner 94), which is the perfect place to preserve a body. Emily preserved him like a rose to make him last. The rose is preservation of southern ideals as well. Also the rose is a remembrance of death. A lot of death occurred throughout this short story. The rose could also symbolize silence. With homer representing the north and a rose as silence, homer's death is a way that Emily silenced the north or change in her life. Miss Emily symbolizes the old south. Emily's father raised her on the southern ways, "alive, miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a card; a sort of heredity obligation upon the town, dating from that day in 1894..."(Faulkner 90). She was traditional, as in not paying taxes, like most southern people are. Death symbolizes Emily's life. She was alive but not really living the life she had. In a way she is death as in the grim reaper. Her father dies in her presence and she kills homer Barron. Emily herself dies in this short story, thus symbolizing the death of the old south. Faulkner uses symbolism in "a rose fir Emily" to help portray what kind of character Emily is.
Faulkner's character Emily is affected by the civil wars outcome. Emily's father settled in Jefferson, Mississippi after the war. Her father instilled strong southern beliefs into Emily. An effect of this is that Emily is stubborn and unwilling to change. Her refusal to pay taxes "makes her more than just a stubborn town eccentric."(Smith 3). Miss Emily refused to conform to the ideals of the town when she wouldn't let the people put numbers on her house. Proof of Emily having southern beliefs is that her servant is black," a few of the 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 91). The black servant refers back to when slaves where allowed in the south. Miss Emily's father had repressed Emily from suitors,"Mr. Grierson was a strict man who demanded high standards from hid daughter."(Black 4). The lacks of interaction with people lead her to have, "the inability to feel or demonstrate appropriate affect, or emotion, that is congruent to a particular situation."(Smith 2). Always being under her fathers control leads her to deny her fathers death. With her newly found freedom "she cut off her hair as a sign of breaking away from her fathers control."(Fatima 3). Homer Barron started off as a fling; then became an obsession for Emily. The male presence was needed for her to function properly; homer was merely "filling a vacancy"(Bernardo 1). Emily's obsession over him made her never want to let him go. The fact that homer wasn't the marrying type pushed Emily over the edge to kill him, so she wouldn't ever have to let him go and keep him forever in her presence. Miss Emily's father presses southern ideals into Emily, which had a bad effect on her. Faulkner expresses the civil war affects through Emily. Emily is also a good expression on his views of the south.
Faulkner's vision of the south is seen through symbolism, the character of Emily and the events that take place in the short story. Homer represents the north. The north is inviting itself into the south and pushing away traditions that have been carried on for decades with the power the civil war has given it. When homer was supposively courting with miss Emily the town was appalled, "at first we were glad that miss Emily would have an interest, because the ladies all said, 'of course a Grierson would not think seriously of a Northerner, a day laborer.' "(Faulkner 92). As the story goes on the south, represented by Emily, wins the battle. This is when she poisoned homer in fear of him leaving her. The town thinks that Emily has ran homer off, but instead she has killed him so she can keep him for herself. Emily silenced homer, thus preserving the integrity of the old southern ways. Faulkner has given the south a win in his short story since in the civil war the south lost to the north. As the story unravels, in time so does Emily and the house. They both grow old and weathered. The southern ideals are dwindling away also as time goes on. Even though most of the south has forgotten Emily hasn't. She is the rose of preservation for southern ideals, traditions, and way of living. When Emily dies it means that all recollection of the old south is gone along with her.
In William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily", Faulkner wrote, "â€¦-some in their brushed Confederate uniforms-â€¦"(Faulkner 94). This was describing some veterans at Emily's funeral. IN this short story symbolism, the character Emily, and the view of the south show the consequences of the north winning in the Civil War. In American literature the Civil War shaped the works of many authors around that time era.
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Fatima. "A Rose for Emily". 5/5/2010. <http://www.tqnyc.org.>
Faulkner, William. "A Rose for Emily". Trans. Thomas Gould. Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing. Ed. Edgar Roberts. New York: Longman, 2009. Print.
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