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Since the rose of the title is symbolic, the reader must search for the meaning of this symbol. Interestingly, William Faulkner does not indicate the color of the rose for Emily. Therefore, the rose can have a number of meanings. Traditionally, of course, red roses symbolize love and passion; however, other colors suggest innocence and truth (white), friendship and freedom (yellow), and desire (coral), and grace, gentleness, and joy (rose). The single rose conveys the meaning of "I love you."
That Faulkner leaves the meaning of "A Rose for Emily" rather ambiguous, the reader must look to the text for meanings. In one passage, for instance, the narrator suggests Emily's innocence in believing that she need pay no taxes:
Only a man of Colonel Sartoris' generatin and thought could have invent it, and only a woman could have believed it.
In Part II of the story, the reader learns that Emily Grierson has been deserted by her sweetheart. Here the passion of Emily, the red rose of her life, has left, and the townspeople remember "all the young men her father had driven away." Then, after her father dies, the townspeople feel that Emily has become humanized in her freedom from her patriarchal domination as
...she too would know the old thrill and the old despair of a penny more or less. (yellow rose)
However, with the appearance of Homer Barron, Emily's passion seems to have been rekindled. But, when he departs, she is not seen on the streets for some time. The narrator comments that
Then we knew that this was to be expected, too; as if that quality of her father which had thwarted her woman's life so many times had been too virulent and too furious to die. (coral rose)
In Part V, after Emily dies, the authorities break down the door of Emily's home and amid the "thin, acrid pall of the tomb," they find a room furnished for a bride with curtains of "faded rose color" (pink), and they discover the body of Homer Barron lying on the bed in this room of faded rose.
Thus, William Faulkner's title, "A Rose for Emily," through the narrative, comes to symbolize the life of Emily, innocent, passionate, briefly free and joyous, and faded. In a telling passage the narrator declares,
We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will.
Therefore, in the final part of Faulkner's story, Emily clings to the single rose--"I love you"--in the form of the man who is the last would not marry her, Homer Barron. The title, "A Rose for Emily" with relation to the final part symbolizes Emily's desperate attempt to hold all from which she has been robbed: desire, passion, joy, and love.
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