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Significant Motifs

Idols: Repeatedly throughout “A Rose for Emily,” Emily is described as a monument or idol that the townspeople alternately revere, pity, resent, or simply tolerate. This characterizes Emily as a character who is frozen in time, and is not an active participant in either the town or her own life.

  • “When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house.” 
  • “Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town.”
  • “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.”
  • “We had long thought of them as a tableau, Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground . . . the two of them framed by the back-flung front door.”
  • “Now and then we would see her in one of the downstairs windows . . . like the carven torso of an idol in a niche, looking or not looking at us, we could never tell which.”

Hair: The story includes specific details about changes to Emily’s hair and the hair of her servant, Tobe. Despite Emily’s refusal—or inability—to acknowledge the passage of time, her changing hair signifies the inevitability of time’s effect.

  • “When we next saw Miss Emily, she had grown fat and her hair was turning gray. During the next few years it grew grayer and...

(The entire section is 420 words.)