In "A Rose for Emily," the story begins and ends with a funeral. To what extent does this disclose the story's theme?

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You are perfectly correct to identify death as one of the transcending themes of this masterful Southern gothic tale. Actually, if you go through the story there are five actual deaths that are discussed or referred to. In addition, you might want to think about how the central protagonist, Miss Emily herself, is described as a dead person. For example, when the alderman attempt to collect the taxes from her, she is described as a drowned corpse, "bloated" and with "pallid hue." Even though Colonel Sartoris, who with customary Southern chivalry, made an exception with Miss Emily concerning taxes, has been dead for over a decade, this is no issue for Miss Emily, who insists that the alderman talk to him. Miss Emily initially denies that her father is actually dead after we are told that he has deceased, and she retains his corpse for three days until she finally allows him to be interned. Of course, you will have spotted that this part of the story foreshadows the somewhat disturbing discovery made at the end of the story. The theme of death is highlighted above all, however, by the strand of Miss Emily's hair that is found on the pillow next to the decaying corpse of Barron, indicating that Miss Emily, in gaining her man, will not let anything take him away from her. This suggests a somewhat fluid approach to death, where the boundary between alive and dead is somewhat porous in her understanding.

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A Rose for Emily

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