A Rose for Emily
Miss Emilys House: A Symbol of Neglect
Miss Emilys House: A Symbol of Neglect
“A Rose for Emily,” is the remarkable story of Emily Grierson, whose death and funeral drew the attention of the town.The bizarre outcome is further emphasized throughout by the symbolism of the decaying house, which parallels Miss Emilys physical deterioration and demonstrates her ultimate mental disintegration.Emilys life, like the house which decays around her, suffers from lack of genuine love and care.
The characteristics of Miss Emilys house, like her physical appearance, are brought about by years of neglect.For example, the house is located in what was once a prominent neighborhood that has deteriorated.Originally white and decorated in “the heavily lightsome style” of an earlier time, the house has become “an eyesore among eyesores”(177).The description of her house represents a place side by side of the past and present and was an emblematic presentation of Emily herself.Through lack of attention the house has evolved from a beautiful representative of quality to an ugly holdover from another era.Similarly, Miss Emily became an eyesore; for example, she was first described as a “fallen monument”(177) to suggest her former grandeur and her later ugliness.She was a “monument,” an ideal of past values but fallen because she had shown herself susceptible to death and decay.According Fetterley, “the violence implicit in the desire to see the monument fall”(194).Like the house, she has lost her beauty.A women who once was beautiful, later became obese and bloated.Both the house and occupant have suffered the ravages of time and neglect.
The interior of the house also parallels Miss Emilys increasing degeneration and the growing sense of sadness that accompanies such decay.Initially, all that can be seen of the inside of the house is a slim half where a staircase is mounted into still move shadow, with the house smelling of “dust and disuse”(178).The darkness and the smell of the house connect with Miss Emily, “a small, fat woman in black” with a voice that is “dry and cold”(178) as if it were dark and dusty from disuse like the house.The similarity between the inside of the house and Miss Emily extends to the mantel, with theportrait of her father and Miss Emily sitting there.In the picture of a young Emily with her father, she was frail and apparently hungering to participate in the life of the era.After her fathers death, she looked like a girl “resembling to angels in colored churches”(180).Inside and out, both the building and the body in which Miss Emily lives are in a state of deterioration like tarnished metal.
Finally, the townspeoples description of both the house and the occupant reveal a common intractable arrogance.At one point the house is described as stubborn, as if it were ignoring the surrounding decay.Similarly, Miss Emily proudly overlooks the deterioration of her once-ground residence.This dominant theme recurs as she denies her fathers death, refuses to discuss or pay taxes, ignores town gossip about her being a “fallen woman,” and does not tell the druggist why she is purchasing arsenic.Brooks argues, “Miss Emily is crazy, but she is no coward”(191).This meaning she didnt mind what the town people thought of her.Both the house and Miss Emily become traps for that strongest representative of the twentieth century, Homer Barron, laborer, outsider, confirmed bachelor.For Blythe, Homer is “Miss Emilys gay beau”(192).Just as the house seems to reject progress and updating, so does Emily, until both of them become decaying anachronisms.
Through descriptions of the house that resemble description of Miss Emily Grierson, “A Rose for Emily” emphasizes the way that beauty and elegance can become repulsive distorted through neglect and lack of love.In this story, the house deteriorates for forty years until it becomes ugly; Miss Emily physical and emotional condition dissipate in a similar manner.
Brooks, Cleanth.”On A Rose for Emily.” Literature for Composition.Ed.Sylan Barnet, et al.4th ed.New York: HaperCollins, 1995.190-1.
Blythe, Hal.”Faulkners A Rose for Emily.” Barnet.192-3.
Fetterley, Judith.”A Rose for Emily A Rose for Emily.” Barnet.194-96