Symbols and Symbolism in The Yellow Wallpaper and A Rose for Emily

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Symbolism in The Yellow Wallpaper and A Rose for Emily

William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" and Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" hold numerous similarities. Both stories show the influences of society and the slow decay on a particular woman. The title of each piece becomes important to the plot and ultimate outcome. In several ways, each title takes shape to portray symbolism in one sense or another. The references to color identify contradictory messages to those who have not heard of these stories, while the title itself takes physical form and is "living" at some point in the piece.

When first assigned to read "The Yellow Wallpaper," a student may think of a bright, cheerful paper covered
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The narrator begins to identify with the figure, seeing it as a creature sharing her own predicament of captivity and, therefore, personifies the figure as a trapped woman. The beginning of the climax is predictable; the narrator sees herself as the woman behind the paper. Carol Westcamp believes that "because the narrator already had mental problems, the color yellow drove her further into insanity" ("Smouldering"). The paper becomes a barrier that the narrator must tear down to survive. It haunts her, and she eventually becomes physically restrained by the "hideous" color and hypnotic pattern of the wallpaper (Kivo 21). In the end, Westcamp discovers that "the psychological effects of the color yellow contribute to the emotional degeneration of the narrator" ("Smouldering").

The physical and color symbolisms in "A Rose for Emily" are not as obvious, but just as strong as in "The Yellow Wallpaper." A first impression, simply from the story's title, implies a piece about a gift of a rose from a young woman's beau or, perhaps, from another loved one. Upon first glance, no one would suspect that the "rose" Emily dried was not a flower, but, in fact, a fleshless body of a man; it is in this way that the title takes physical form. In a morbid way, the corpse serves the same purpose as a dried rose. It is a prize secretly preserved within a "room decked and furnished as for a bridal" (Polk 22).

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