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A Rose for Emily Themes/Symbols.

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1 A Rose for Emily Themes/Symbols

2 Tradition versus Modernity- Progress Emily/townspeople vs Homer
The people of Jefferson are at a crossroads-they must move forward into a modern, more commercial future. As Emily initially clings to the body of her father (and later Homer) the townspeople cling to their traditions. Emily herself is a tradition- she remains unchanging despite the small steps towards progress that the community around her make. As a living monument to the past, she represents the traditions that people wish to respect and honour; however, she is also a burden and isolated, nursing eccentricities that others cannot understand.

3 “Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town . . .” Emily herself remains in a timeless vacuum- (forever in her bridal chamber)she has locked herself within her home refusing to let change effect her. For example: Refusing to have metallic numbers affixed to the side of her house when the town receives modern mail service, she is out of touch with the reality that constantly threatens to break through her carefully sealed perimeters.

4 But modernity is coming with little regard for anyone:
The aldermen try to break with the unofficial agreement about taxes once forged between Colonel Sartoris and Emily. This new and younger generation of leaders brings in Homer’s company to pave the sidewalks. Although Jefferson still highly regards traditional notions of honor and reputation, the narrator is critical of the old men in their Confederate uniforms who gather for Emily’s funeral. For them as for her, time is relative. The past is not a faint glimmer but an ever-present, idealized realm. Emily’s macabre bridal chamber is an extreme attempt to stop time and prevent change, although doing so comes at the expense of human life.

5 Mortality Death is the ultimate victor in this story- there are many attempts to master death but ultimately death wins. Emily’s life seems to be haunted by death. Despite Emily being the community’s monument she still moves quietly towards death and ultimately succumbs to it. Imagery used to describe her is that of death.

6 Emily stands as an emblem of the Old South, a grand lady whose respectability and charm rapidly decline through the years, much like the outdated sensibilities the Griersons represent. The death of the old social order will prevail, despite many townspeople’s attempts to stay true to the old ways. Emily attempts to deny death (her father’s) wanting to remain in control. Unable to admit that he has died, Emily clings to the controlling paternal figure whose denial and control became the only—yet extreme—form of love she knew.

7 When Homer dies, Emily refuses to acknowledge it once again—although this time, she herself was responsible for bringing about the death. In killing Homer, she was able to keep him near her. However, Homer’s lifelessness rendered him permanently distant. Emily and Homer’s grotesque marriage reveals Emily’s disturbing attempt to fuse life and death

8 Isolation As readers we cannot escape the fact that this is a story about the extremes of isolation- both physical and emotional. Readers are shown the process by which human beings become isolated by their families, by their community, by tradition, by law, by the past, and by their own actions and choices.

9 Who is more isolated Tobe or Emily?
Consider the descriptions we put together of their characters- each is isolated- Tobe is the only noted ‘black’ person- Emily is the only noted ‘lady’. Is either isolated by choice?

10 Memory Gavin Stevens (a William Faulkner character) famously says, "The past is never dead. It's not even past." The story spans at time period of more than 70 years (approx 74). This story moves back and forth in time- in the same way that our own memories work. The story is also retold- that is- our narrator is likely the voice of an entire town, probably more than one generation. Connections with the idea of progress: Emily being trapped in the past- wanting to keep the men in her life with her.

11 When Miss Emily begins dating Homer Barron, she is trying to free herself from her father's past control, and from the tradition of being a proper lady.

The story's structure is meant to mimic the way that memories are passed on from one generation to the next.

12 Versions of reality What we confront is the reality of America in the story, and the reality of the main character's complete isolation. Faulkner reveals how difficult it can be to see the past and the present clearly and honestly by depicting memory as flawed and subjective. This ‘difficulty’ explains why the main character is unable to differentiate between the past and present- sanity and insanity.

13 "A Rose for Emily" shows how the unrealistic expectations placed on southern women in past eras were detrimental. It establishes how much things have changed since Miss Emily's time. Do you think Tobe has a clear view of reality? Do the different generations of Jefferson society presented have different versions of the reality of Miss Emily? If so, what are some of these versions?

14 Compassion and forgiveness
We almost have to be told that these sentiments are behind "A Rose for Emily" before we can see them. The story can seem downright cruel, the characters wholly unsympathetic, and the plot gross. When we begin to see the magnitude of the tragedy, and its impact on multiple generations, we understand the story is a call for understanding.

15 Consider: Do the townspeople pity Emily? Is this pity the same thing as compassion? Are they the same thing? Does the town treat Emily compassionately? Can you give any examples? Is it more compassionate to leave Emily alone with her crime the way the town does in the story, or let her be processed by the system? If Emily murdered Homer Barron, can we still feel compassion for her? Do you feel compassion for Homer?

16 The story seems to argue that forgiveness, compassion, and understanding can only come by facing the facts of the past and the present. One critic notes: “By showing us that Emily is insane, Faulkner gives us space to feel compassion for her, and to forgive her for her crime. True compassion for criminals involves allowing them to face their crimes and their punishments on the legal record – that the town failed to allow Emily this process shows their lack of true compassion for her.” Do you agree?

17 Symbolism: Time: pocket watch, stationery, hair. Lime and arsenic
Death and taxes The house

18 Find examples of the following:
Alliteration Metaphor Connotation Onomatopoeia Oxymoron Paradox Simile

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