Please give some examples of figurative language from "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner. 

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" contains many kinds of figurative language, beginning with the opening sentence:

When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument....

This is an example of metaphor; Faulkner describes the dead Miss Emily to a "fallen monument," a longtime, notable attraction in the town.

Another example of figurative language appears in the second paragraph:

Miss Emily's house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps....

Here Faulkner uses personification (giving human qualities or characteristics to non-human or non-living things) to describe Miss Emily's house. Like its owner, the house lifts its "stubborn and coquettish decay" in a display of misplaced pride.

One more example of figurative language can be found in Faulkner's actual description of Miss Emily. We have seen how the town feels about her (she is a "fallen monument") and we have seen that she lives in a house which matches her status of outdated Old Southern charm. Now we meet the Miss Emily for the first time after years of living in virtual isolation:

Her skeleton was small and spare; perhaps that was why what would have been merely plumpness in another was obesity in her. She looked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water, and of that pallid hue. Her eyes, lost in the fatty ridges of her face, looked like two small pieces of coal pressed into a lump of dough as they moved from one face to another while the visitors stated their errand.

Faulkner uses two similes to help us visualize her more clearly. First, Emily is shaped like a body which has been bloated by too much time in water; second, her eyes are tiny and dark, like two pieces of coal pressed into her puffy face.

These are just a few examples of figurative language in this short story, and Faulkner uses them to create a more vivid picture of Miss Emily and her life.

favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After several citizens of the town had come to complain about the terrible smell emanating from Miss Emily's house, the Board of Aldermen met to discuss what could and should be done. The older members could not bring themselves to say anything directly to Miss Emily about the smell, and "So the next night, after midnight, four men crossed Miss Emily's lawn and slunk about the house like burglars . . . " sprinkling lime around the cellar to kill the stench. This description employs a simile that compares the men who were actually trying to be helpful to burglars in their desire to remain utterly undetected to the occupants of the house.

However, these men failed in their attempt to be secretive.  "As they recrossed the lawn, a window that had been dark was lighted and Miss Emily sat in it, the light behind her, and her upright torso motionless as that of an idol." Here, another simile compares Miss Emily's rigid posture and motionlessness to that of a statue.

Later, when Miss Emily goes to buy the rat poison with which she presumably kills Homer Barron, the narrator describes her appearance, with "haughty black eyes in a face the flesh of which was strained across the temples and about the eyesockets as you imagine a lighthouse-keeper's face ought to look." This simile compares the appearance of Miss Emily's face to the face of a lighthouse-keeper; apparently, she has become quite thin and this gauntness has especially affected her face, making her look like one who lives a difficult and solitary life.

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A Rose for Emily

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