Why is the story called "A Rose for Emily"  even though there are no roses?

Expert Answers
Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Roses need not be literally spoken of to have power.  Think of roses and their various roles in human life.  Roses are often present at weddings, a promise of love despite hardship, the combination of pain and beauty. 

However, roses because of their strong odor, are also used in funeral homes to cover the stench of decay.  In Faulkner's day as well, older ladies, those of the late 1800s, favored rose water parfumes as a means of hiding bodily odor (no deodorants then, you know.)  Emily tries hard to be something she is not...young, engaging, marriageable. 

The covering of stench could be applied to a variety of characters:  the town in its neglect of one of its own, Emily in covering the death of her lover, the dead flowers symbolic of Homer's apparently neglected promise. 

Additionally, it has been traditional for brides and lovers to press and preserve roses.  The rose of the title then, may symbolize Emily's stagnant dreams for a life with Homer.

Or, one could view the rose as the narrator's offer of friendship, extended too late.  Like a clipped rose, life itself is short and once it is gone, the rose can never be restored to its previous glory. 

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The rose is symbolic...a sort of nod in her direction for her success as an aristocratic representative, the last of her kind, and the conquerer of Homer Baron.

The rose is also symbolic of love and of her life.  It was beautiful, soft, protected, with a few thorns.  Her southern heritage enveloped her and protected her in the dullness of the rules that she followed almost without question.  Her father also protected her from marriage to unsuitable men, and then from taxes as he died leaving her alone with Toby.

gbeatty eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An intriguing question. Well, first of all, remember that this is not strictly the case. The word "rose" appears several times in the story, especially in the final section, with "rose-shaded lights." However, the main reason this is the title is that what Miss Emily wants above all else is to be wooed. She wants love to be freely given to her, and when it is not, she kills it, taking the "rose" (her loved one) by violence, and killing it.

bluebutterb | Student

It symbolizes Emily, I guess, for roses gives people a feeling of secretive things going on, or how beautiful and yet harmful it is due to its thorns just like Emily.

angela66769 | Student

the rose is just a secretive person hiding aming thorns for nobody to see what she is hiding


milamchae | Student

the rose derived from the "sub rosa" (under the rose) theory.  It has to do with the Greek gods.  When The god of silence oversaw an affair, cupid bribed him with the first ever made rose to keep silent.  Since then it was been a European symbol of silence.  The narrator is giving Emily a rose; He is swearing to keep her secret of the motive and killing of her lover, Homer.


If you have questions any college's databases have great references and all say something about the "sub rosa"

rzoo09 | Student

Honestly, all these answers are good guesses. Our English teacher told us that towards the end of his life, Faulkner, in an interview, told the sercret of "Rose". He said it didnt mean anything. It was simply a random title.

nazlihan | Student

The rose symbolizes two crucial themes when considered in two different aspects:
The Plot: Emily comes from an aristocratic, wealthy, proud and priviledged family lineage. And after her father's death, she is the only one left of that lineage and time in the town of Jefferson. Thus, when her life comes to an end, the townspeople gather up and go to her funeral as if doing their last duty in the regard of what has been once honoured and lost now. In this aspect (the plot) A rose for Emily means the last duty for Emily.
Emily: Emily in her youthness was prevented from marriage due to her father's ignorance and pride. He pushed away all the men who wanted to marry Emily because they were not good enough for her. Therefore, after her father's death Emily was left all alone. Somewhile after her father's death she meets a man called Homer (Pavement constructer) and starts an emotional relationship with him. However, Homer wants to leave the town and turn back to the North (He is a Northener). And also the town pities Emily (Poor Emily) for having a relationship with a Northener, Yankee, Daily-worker. Yet, despite of all this Emily wants to keep her only true love to herself forever. So she poisons Homer with arsenic (the arsenic also symbolizes the colour of rose). In this aspect A rose for Emily is Homer himself. His decomposed corpse illustrates the description of a dried and faded rose...

grant1965 | Student

I feel a sense of pity for Ms. Emily because of whta she had been through, you tend to want to empathize with her situation. There is this compelling feeling to give her a rose to try and cheer up. Thats it, she deserves a rose just so that she feels better. Ms. Emily represents many women who would lkie a rose to make them smile. Go ahead give Ms Emily a rose.

yurga | Student

W. Faulkner explained that the rose for Emily might be understood as a salute for a lonely woman to whom you would give a flower (rose).

porcellam | Student

In addition to the symbolic meaning of the rose, one might consider that the story itself is the rose, or gift, for Emily. It's the town's way of giving something to her that it did not do when she was alive.