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Symbolism and Theme in William Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily

Symbolism and Theme in William Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily

In William Faulkner’s short story “A Rose for Emily,” a series of interconnected events collectively represent a single theme in the story. Symbolism is the integral factor involved in understanding the theme. “A Rose for Emily’s” dominant theme is the search for love and security, a basic human need which can be met unfavorably in equivocal environments. Faulkner’s use of symbolism profoundly develops the theme of the story, bringing to light the issues of morality that arise from a young woman’s struggle to find love.

Faulkner provides the necessary pieces of symbolism, speckled through out the action of the story, for the reader to assimilate and assemble. Curiously, it is a broken time line that Faulkner follows, that allows him to achieve maximum effect at the end of the story. The placement of the conclusion or denouement at the beginning of the story, allows the curiosity of the reader to become strongly engaged on the character of Emily Grierson. As the narration begins with the funeral of Emily, the juxtaposition of the image received in the opening paragraph, is sharply compared to that of the information found in the third paragraph. Where in the first the town has come to pay respects to a fallen monument, in the third it is learned that she was really, “…a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town…” (276).

The story progresses through flashbacks, and Emily is heard speaking to the gentlemen representing the Board of Aldermen, and it is noticed that she is wearing a thin gold watch chain. It is not until a lull takes place after the spokesman announces the purpose of their visit, that they then,”… could hear the inv…

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…uest for love and security, and Emily has provided this for herself. Whether she knew the process through which she gained it was moral or not remains a mystery whose answer died with her. She sought refuge from the cold, and inhospitable environment of abandonment. She sought to get away from the only life she ever knew. The strategic placement of symbolism in the action of this story, provides vast areas with depth of knowledge from which the theme comes forth. The reader is pulled into character early on, by placing the conclusion up front, and placing the falling action at the end of the story. This creates a greater sense of surprise or shock value, and may even evoke a sense of true pity for Emily from the reader.

Work Cited

Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” Literature for Composition. 4th ed. Ed. Sylvan Barnet, et al. New York: HarperCollins, 1996.

Contrast of Irony and Style in Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour

Contrast of Irony and Style in Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour

Kate Chopin’s use of irony in her short story, “The Story of an Hour,” stands in direct contrast to the subtle manner in which she tells the story. Strong use of irony in a short story yields more honesty in a character. She achieves this quality by immediately setting the premise, that Mrs. Mallard’s fragile health would ultimately lead to her demise, upon receiving the news of her husband’s death. Before an immediate assumption can be made about Mrs. Mallard, Chopin begins to start another path. This divergence is apparent at the point of the story where Mrs. Mallard’s reaction is anticipated, yet, “She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance” (170). Mrs. Mallard does indeed grieve the loss of her husband, but, “When the storm of grief had spent itself she went away to her room alone” (170). Chopin discharges the inner feelings of her character simultaneously with those that are expected of her.

For many people, an event of such significance as the death of a loved one, would be considered their darkest day. An individual’s loss may lead to a bitter and pessimistic view of their world, finding fault with anything within even the most glorious of days. Paragraph five is vivid with pleasant imagery, as “new spring life,” and “delicious breath of rain,” become symbolic of Mrs. Mallard’s release of her inner feelings. Hardly the reaction one might have expected. There are new hopes and aspirations ahead of her, not the direct opposite as one would assume. Yet, Mrs. Mallard is fearful of the feelings overcoming her, as if repressing a dirty thought. As if hearing the voice of society…

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… the entire story, as Chopin writes:

And yet she loved him —sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being! (171)

This paragraph could not be anymore honest than it already is. It is plain to see how this short story challenged the thinking at the time. Great writers are the ones that have the foresight, and chutzpah to challenge the establishment. To break down the harmful norms dictated by a select few. Maybe the great irony lies in how many people felt the same way as Mrs. Mallard, but did not seize the opportunity. It is perhaps more shocking to see how far society has come, only to see how far it has left to go.

Works Cited:

Chopin, Kate. The Story of an Hour. (1894). 31 Apr. 2003.

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