Why do you suppose Faulkner calls his story "A Rose for Emily"?

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lmetcalf's profile pic

lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Roses carry so many possible symbolic associations that could apply to Miss Emily.  One that I think works particularly well is the idea that we uses roses as a tribute.  We give roses after stage performances; we put a wreath of roses around the winning horse at the Kentucky Derby, and we lay roses on funeral caskets.  This story is then a rose, or a tribute, to Miss Emily.  While all readers would agree that Miss Emily's actions are abhorent, the narrator does succeed in creating some sympathy for her as well.  Mentioning the actions of her father and her isolation from the newer generation at least begins to explain how she could have killed Homer and kept his body all those years.  The narrator knows he has a great story to tell and leaves us shocked in the end, but along the way he talks about the town's relationship with Miss Emily and suggests that she was "a duty and a care" and uses figurative language like "monument" and "idol in a niche" to describe her.  The story as a whole serves as a justification or rationale for her actions and in a way then is a tribute -- a rose -- for Emily.

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clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The title of this short story has been the context of criticism for many years and will likely continue to be debated even in your classroom.  Some have asked, why say simply "A Rose for Emily," rather than "A Rose for Miss Emily."  Some have asked, "What about roses?  Nowhere else in the story mentions flowers of any kind."  Finally, the questions that plague most readers and critics are, "In the end, did Faulkner wish to pay a tribute to Emily or was he mocking her?"

Despite the questions and arguments, a couple things are clear.  First, the title is in direct reference to the fact that Miss Emily is dead and the story opens with her funeral.  Next, this title is ambiguous and it adds to the rest of the mystery held in the story.  Even though this story is considered modern, it is also considered gothic.  Faulkner likely intentionally created a title that would leave the reader with such questions as this does.

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