Snapshots of Miss Emily in William Faulkner's A Rose for Emily

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Snapshots of Miss Emily in A Rose for Emily

“A Rose for Miss Emily” by William Faulkner is a story of quiet lonliness and tragedy. The story ends on a surprising note, but one for which the reader is not totally unprepared. Faulkner very cleverly uses changing pictures of Miss Emily’s physical state to give the reader a clue as to what is transpiring inside her.

The picture or “tableau” of Emily in her childhood gives us our first clue into her strange personality. She is “a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door.” The scene almost blatantly reveals Emily in her
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The turning point comes after Miss Emily has met and possibly fallen in love with Homer Barron. It is this scene that clues the reader in to the surprising ending. They have been seeing each other long enough for the subject of marriage to come up when we next see her at the druggist’s counter. Here she is pictured as “thinner than usual, with cold, haughty black eyes in a face the flesh of which was strained across the temples and about the eyesockets . . .” The description somewhat reminds us of a sinister-looking skeleton, and somehow, we just know she is up to no good when she purchases the arsenic from the druggist.

We know life is ebbing when we next see Miss Emily, but we can tell that she is stubbornly hanging on. “She had grown fat and her hair was turning gray.” Faulkner goes into great detail in describing hair. I believe hair is a symbol not only of youth and of life, but also of strength. In describing her hair as “vigorous iron-gray, like the hair of an active man,” he alludes to her tenacity to hang on to her ways.

Our final glimpse of Miss Emily before she dies is a picture of a soul which is nearly shut off from life. Now and then the townspeople see her through one of the downstairs windows. The upstairs and that part of her
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