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I am writing about the symbolism of Emily's house in "A Rose for Emily" and the...

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ktall3 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 2, 2013 at 4:52 PM via web

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I am writing about the symbolism of Emily's house in "A Rose for Emily" and the wallpaper in "The Yellow Wallpaper" I am having a hard time comparing and contrasting the uses of this literary element

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 2, 2013 at 5:53 PM (Answer #1)

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Approach your analysis by clearly stating what is symbolism but, most importantly, what is symbolism used for in short stories. You will find that symbolism is the attribution of a meaning to something otherwise unrelated to such meaning. It is part of the creative license of the author to decide what something stands for.

In "A Rose for Emily", the "rose" that Faulkner talks about is a symbol that represents the ode, or the acknowledgment, that the author pays to the enigmatic life of Emily Grierson. Endless other things are symbolic in this story, particularly those who have to do with aesthetics. Emily's house, for instance

an eyesore among eyesores

is symbolic of the defeated spirit of the South of the Reconstruction; a period of time to which Emily's close ancestors belong and which saw the end of many great families such as the Griersons.

Most importantly, it is the townsfolk narrator who awards symbolism to Emily's life. They are the ones who call her home an "eyesore". Yet, the job of the narrator in "A Rose for Emily" is not so much to decorate Emily's life with symbolism, but to try and explain her behavior with the little that they were able to figure out. After all, it is the townsfolk who ended up "hiding" the smell from Emily's home with the limestone, without telling her, to avoid her having to face a court of justice.

In "The Yellow Wallpaper" we also witness the emblematic Gothic symbol of the "remote, old mansion",  we find the main character awarding the symbolic meaning of things herself. It is she who decides that the yellow wallpaper is a trap, that the pattern is sinking down a woman trapped within, and that she needs to release her. Therefore, the main character awards symbolic meaning to things that are directly related to her weakening state of mind.

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