Decay is found in numerous parts of “A Rose for Emily”. The image pattern works its way from Emily’s mind to the inside of her lover, Homer Barron’s, resting chamber. In “A Rose for Emily” you find five major elements of decay. The first element of decay that is found in “A Rose for Emily” is the decaying of Emily’s mental state. Emily may have felt trapped because her father wouldn’t allow any male suitors to visit her, so when her father died she likely felt she should trap his body and not bury it as revenge because he wasted her youthful potential for love and an independent life.
Emily’s denial of her father’s death expands the theme of death because she traps herself home unwilling to allow the change of death to affect her lifestyle. Another element of decay that is found in “A Rose for Emily” is after the death of her father Emily allows the house to decay and become an eyesore, as the town’s people described it. Not only did the school look decrepit in a town that was embracing modernization but it also reeked of death and decay as well. Emily didn’t accept the theme of change because she seemed to live comfortably in the decay.
She also wouldn’t accept the town’s people’s wants to modernize how the town looked by putting numbers above her door. Since Emily was living in a standstill in the period in which she grew up in, she never changed the interior of her house so she left all the furniture that was at one time very sophisticated go to waste and decay (Teen Ink). After her father and lover’s death, Emily let the decay continue to take its toll on her life by allowing her physical condition to decay. Emily at one time was one of the most sought after women with her slender body, angelic features, and her white attire.
When she let the decay take over her personal hygiene and physical appearance she had traded in all those great looks for a heavy set figure, her dark eyes, and her grim black attire. When Emily let her physical appearance go she also enhanced the theme of decay and how time changes the body. Not only does the element of decay take over Emily’s mind, house, and body, it also deteriorates her social standing in the town. Town’s people once viewed her as a promising woman who would surely succeed in the future.
Now she was thought of as a crazy suicidal woman (Teen Ink). In her reality Emily remains proud and doesn’t recognize the fact that she has fallen from the aristocratic social status that she once was in before the death of her father. This element of decay helps expand the theme into a fall from a notable social standing or rank of power. The last and major climatic element of decay was after Emily’s funeral the town’s people opened the abandoned room in the middle of the house and found the remnants of her lover in bed.
She had clearly been lying beside Homer Barron’s corpse for thirty years due to the evidence of the long strand of iron gray hair found on the pillow beside his (Faulkner). The decay isn’t just upon poor Homer Barron but is also noted on everything in the room. The town’s people see the effects of decay in the rose colored room with dust blanketing everything and the tarnishing of the monograms on the silver toiletries placed in the room that appeared to be suited for a bridal suite as if it were an eerie dream.
This element of decay enhanced the theme of Emily’s sad tragic life. There is also a surprising twist in this short story that would make any reader curious. The Negro servant, Tobe is the only one to escape the house of decay unscathed. As quoted by Faulkner, “He walked through the house and out the back and was not seen again”. After being trapped into servitude to Emily’s family for the majority of his life, he escapes the house of decay and goes on to live his life free of Emily and all her secrets.
All the present elements of decay in “A Rose for Emily” show that the theme isn’t simply limited to that of change or death but it is very broad and can be interpreted and perceived in many ways according to the reader’s thoughts and views. Faulkner plays the element of sweet, sickening decay in every aspect of this short story to enhance each theme. Emily Grierson’s comfort in decay grew when her father passed and ultimately lead to the demise of her home, her mind, her body, as well as the demise of her lover Homer Barron.
Courtney from Study Moose
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