Symbolism in "A Rose for Emily" and "Barn Burning" by William Faulkner

Essay by aprilrainA+, April 2007

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In his many works of fiction, William Faulkner explores the lives of characters who live in the closed society of the American South, a society rooted in traditional values. In the short stories "Barn Burning" and "A Rose for Emily," Faulkner explores what happens when individuals lose their connection to this society and its values. Both Abner Snopes, a rebellious sharecropper, and Emily Grierson, an unmarried woman from a prominent family, are isolated from their respective communities, and both find themselves in a kind of societal limbo. Once in that limbo, they no longer feel the need to adhere to the values of their society and, as a result,are free to violate both traditional and moral rules.

Initially, Emily's isolation is not her own creation; it is thrust upon her. From childhood on, Emily is never really allowed to be part of Jefferson society; she is seen as having a "high and mighty" attitude (Faulkner, "Rose" 32).

Her father stands between her and the rest of the town, refusing to allow her to date the young men who pursue her, whom he sees as somehownot good enough for her. As a result, her only close relationship is with her father, who essentially becomes her whole world. Recalling father and daughter, the narrator depicts them as static and alone, trapped in a living portrait, "Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip" (Faulkner, "Rose" 31), framed by the archway of the entrance to their house. When Emily's father dies, and the townspeople insist on removing his body from her home, the only world she knows is physically taken from her, and she has nothing to take its place. Without her...