What metaphor is used to describe Miss Emily in the first paragraph of William Faulkner's A Rose for Emily?
In the opening paragraph of his rather macabre short story "A Rose for Emily," William Faulkner employs the metaphor of "a fallen monument" to describe his protagonist, who has lived out her entire life in this small Southern town and, apparently, died a lonely single woman, alone save for her aging African American servant who dutifully tended to her and her home for many decades. Early in "A Rose for Emily," the story's narrator comments upon the titular figure, now deceased, in a somewhat reverential tone that will shortly be obviated by the facts of Miss Emily's existence: "Alive Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town . . ."
As Faulkner weaves his story, we are introduced to the character of Emily, raised by a domineering father who rejects all potential suitors for his daughter's hand in marriage. When Homer Barron, a Northerner who comes to town as part of a construction crew, Emily becomes smitten with him despite his "Yankee" heritage. Homer will, the reader, learns, disappear, presumably returned from whence he came, leaving Emily once again all alone. It is only at the story's end that the reader discovers that Emily has killed Homer and kept his body in her bed until her own death years later.
The metaphor Faulkner uses in that opening passage—"a fallen monument"—is a reference to Emily's reputation in the town as a long-standing citizen of good repute who will be missed. Her eccentricities notwithstanding, she has been a model of consistency in this fictional Southern town for many years, her existence akin to that of a monument. Her death, then, is compared to the collapse or destruction of a monument. In the end, it is apparent that the "fallen monument" metaphor, however, also references the deceased's badly tarnished posthumous reputation.
Using a metaphor, the narrator describes Emily as a "fallen monument". After the narrator says, "the whole town went to her funeral" the metaphor of a fallen monument adds additional stature to Miss Emily and shows the importance of her to the town. However, the idea that she is a "fallen" monument foreshadows some of the more sinister events that will follow in the story. Faulkner then adds more suspense by saying that no one had seen the inside of her house "in at least ten years." Thus, in one paragraph, the author has sparked our curiosity about the true character of this woman.
In the opening of the story, Miss Emily is referred to as "a fallen monument." As a metaphor, this fits her in several ways. She has died or "fallen." She has been a part of the town for so long that she is viewed as an enduring monument of sorts, rather than a human being. Another name for a monument is a memorial. Calling Emily a memorial is apt. Her life was lived as a memorial to her dead father and to a Southern culture that had disappeared long before.