William Faulkner is a renowned author known for many of his abnormalities, both in his style of writing, as well as in his personal life. He was an author who had a strong grasp of the intricacies of individual human emotions as well as the way people are connected and the conflicts that may ensue from these close personal relationships. I have always been most impressed with his knack for his writings which truly embody small town life.
I believe my favorite of all of his works is his short story "A Rose for Emily." The way he tells the tale with a group narrator voice is quite unique and lends to some periods of tangential writing. One moment he can be writing about Emily in the window looking out at the men pouring lime around her house to help subdue the horrid odor emanating from within, and the next he can be skip back in time to explain how Emily believes she should not owe taxes due to her father's words from years ago. It is certainly stream of consciousness writing, as the narrator jumps wherever he wishes to add detail to the character of Emily and her situation.
There are many instances of symbolism in the story. I have read the story hundreds of times, and I am sure I could sit down with another reader of the same story who found symbolic meaning in something I had totally missed. The first symbolic image that comes to mind is Emily's painting classes for the women in the village. I believe the painting of the delicate china coupled with the fact that she is sharing this painting through classes, symbolizes Emily's need for outside companionship in a way, but it also shows that Emily loves beautiful things as well as symbolizes her longing for beauty in her own dreary life.
The rose, dust, house, hair, the stationery, lime, and arsenic, I will group together, for the similarity in symbolism between all of these things is death. Even the most magnificent rose can only bloom once briefly before it dies. This symbolizes the brevity of life. The dust symbolizes both growth and stillness. As people grow, our skin cells slough away, and each visitor into a home brings additional dust. The lime is symbolic as it represents the town's attempts to cover for Emily, so as not to have to be forced to confront her directly. The stationery symbolizes Emily's desire to be a part of the outside world, while she is paralyzed with anxiety and cannot do so. The arsenic seems pretty straight forward, but if we are to see it symbolically, it may represent the poison in Emily's life. Arsenic poisoning is a very painful way to die, and Emily may feel like she has suffered just as painfully throughout her life.
Now, as for Faulkner deciding to use a plural narrator speaking as one (the Town), I believe this was both brilliant and instrumental in how we come to view Emily and her mannerisms. Each person in the town knows Emily in different ways, and from different stages in her life. Faulkner also illustrates the small town propensity for gossip. I think that Faulkner chose to set the story in the South to give it an extra layer of dimension, as there were very many expected social rules that Emily was expected to follow, but did not. A small southern town would not have been as accepting as a large, bustling city, where Emily and her behavior (which was considered insane by many) might certainly have gone completely unnoticed.
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