It can be longed for, as in wishing time would turn backward, or hoped against, as in looking to the future and sometimes even personified and pitted against itself as past struggles with future or present struggles with the stopped time of death. To explore how time is treated within literature, which would seem to have no time of its own, William Faulkner’s short story “A Rose for Emily” will be compared with Emily Dickenson’s poem “Because I could not stop for Death” and William Shakespeare’s “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day”.
Time plays a very palpable role in William Faulkner’s story “A Rose for Emily.” Almost strong enough to be considered a character of its own, Time marches through the story in a disjointed fashion, always leaving its mark wherever it touches. Through this treatment, not only do readers get a glimpse of the old south of the 1800s, but they are given an idea of the story’s early 1900s present through the voice of the narrator(s). However, even in dealing with aspects of the past, Faulkner shows that time can and will affect changes however much they might be shunned or ignored by those trapped within its domain. Throughout “A Rose for Emily,” readers experience the rigidity of the past, the flexible nature of the present and the tug-of-war battle constantly fought between them.
By utilizing several of the older characters in the story as symbols, Faulkner demonstrates the unchanging and unchangeable nature of the past through the actions of these characters. Standing out as the prime example for his case is Miss Emily Grierson herself, as inflexible and unchanging as possible. Throughout the story, Miss Emily is characterized as an unchanging object through the use of such imagery as “her upright torso motionless as that of an idol” (437) as she is framed in a lit window, “We had long thought of them as a tableau. Miss Emily a slender .silhouette in the background” .