Language

The language of “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner is quite complex as it includes many detailed descriptive passages which present the habits and hierarchies, the architecture and even the fashion style of a past society. However, the overall understanding of the plot is not difficult.

Most of the story is rendered in the narrative mode, and dialogue is seldom included, to exemplify the way characters interact:

"But we have. We are the city authorities, Miss Emily. Didn't you get a notice from the sheriff, signed by him?"
"I received a paper, yes," Miss Emily said. "Perhaps he considers himself the sheriff . . . I have no taxes in Jefferson."

Most of the times, however, the author prefers quotations and indirect speech to dialogue:

"But we have. We are the city authorities, Miss Emily. Didn't you get a notice from the sheriff, signed by him?"
"I received a paper, yes," Miss Emily said. "Perhaps he considers himself the sheriff . . . I have no taxes in Jefferson."

The tone is involved, but in a subtle way as we only slowly start to feel the narrator is biased and pities Emily.

Aside from these overall features, the author employs various stylistic devices:

  • Imagery
  • Similes
  • Metaphors
  • Symbols

Imagery

Imagery abounds in this short story, because of the numerous descriptive passages which present the overall setting, the way the characters look like or how they act. For instance, in the first 15 opening lines, the author creates imagery in connection to both the people gathered at the funeral and Emily’s house. Here is just one fragment showing how the house looks like:

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Symbols

Quite a few symbols further help construct the story and gives readers more hints about its theme and the characters.

Emily’s house is a symbol of the Old South with its hierarchies and customs which degrade and decay just like the house. Once a symbol of status and power, the house has become only a memento of past and change. Also, it is a symbol of Emily’s isolation and attachment to the past as she ultimately secludes herself in, rejecting the outside world.

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