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Essay 1 - A Rose for Emily

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Paige Mount
Professor Corbally
English 102
27 September 2019
Secretes of a Fallen Monument
William Faulkner’s “A Rose For Emily” is written about a lonely aristocratic woman
who struggles to cope with life and the changes of the Old South in the Post Civil War Era. Miss
Emily is a prisoner of herself and her world, as she cannot let go of the traditions and customs of
the upper class with which she sees herself. Faulkner’s short story is revealed with a noteworthy
entanglement of the events of Miss Emily’s life. The fashion in which the story is
chronologically jumbled creates a sense of curiosity and perplexity within the reader. Faulkner
also puts an interesting twist on the narration of the short story with the use of an unusual
perspective. This creates a sense that the story is roughly told as gossip or as the towns’ people’s
confessions. Faulkner does an excellent job at keeping the reader immersed and inquisitive as to
the tragic life of Miss Emily Grierson.
There may be a decent amount of foreshadowing in “A Rose for Emily” but with
Faulkner’s use of an unfamiliar order of events it prohibits the reader from fully grasping the
complexities of the short story until the ending is disclosed. Faulkner starts the story off with the
event of Miss Emily’s death, but quickly turns to the telling of who Miss Emily was and how her
unfortunate life played out so tragically. The flow of the story remains continuous but the
narrator moves between these memories of Miss Emily’s life almost indiscriminately as if you
would be speaking to a friend about them. Logically, the story makes sense yet the events being
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played out sporadically creates a sense of bewilderment that did not quite come to understanding
until the story ended. Once the conclusion is known the story makes a great deal more sense than
it did while reading. At first the reader may not understand what the previous events of the story
are suggesting and this could be another reason the reader is curious and perplexed at some of
the events mentioned. The middle of the story foretells what the arsenic Miss Emily has bought
is going to be used for but at the same time they are mentioning the arsenic, they also speak
about the two female cousins that were visiting Miss Emily. The towns people did not
particularly like these cousins as they were “even more Grierson than Miss Emily had ever
been”(4). The story also goes on to immediately speak of the towns’ people assumptions saying,
“She will kill herself” and “it would be the best thing”(4). These two interjections distract the
reader from her true intentions for the arsenic. There is also the foreshadowing of the “vigorous
iron-grey”(4) hair that Miss Emily had become accustomed to but we do not really appreciate the
reason for the intricate detail mentioned about her hair until the very last sentence of the story.
The foreshadowing Faulkner includes is flawless but the way he formulates this short story so
that the foreshadowing is unknown is impeccable. At the end of the story, Faulkner leaves the
reader thinking, “How in the world did I not see that coming?”
There is a sort of anticipation throughout the story that leaves the reader eager to
understand and know this story of Miss Emily’s life. You could say there is a lot of uncertainty
as to the timeline of the story as no memory is fully divulged but only parts of it are understood
at a time. When the narrator first speaks about Homer Barron, you can see that there is desire in
Miss Emily that had not be portrayed before. The reader is hopeful that Miss Emily’s life may
turn around as her father had “driven away”(3) all the young men, as “none of the [them] were
good enough”(2). This eagerness turns from a dream come true type state of Miss Emily
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probably marrying her sweetheart to confusion when the arsenic if purchased. The druggist
asked Miss Emily what the arsenic was being used for, as the law requires an answer. Miss
Emily stared at the druggist, “her head tilted back in order to look at him eye for eye until he
looked away”. The delivery boy then brought Miss Emily the package that was marked with a
skull and bones and with the words “For rats” written under. The impression is given that Miss
Emily is using the poison for something unconventional but only assumptions can be made at
this point. Who is the arsenic for? Why would she want to harm anyone or anything? Is she
going to use it on herself? Miss Emily being a noble lady, one would not think of her taking part
in such an indescribable act as murder!
It is at the end of the story that the suspense subsides and the reader is able to understand
that the rancid smell at Miss Emily’s house mentioned by the narrator earlier in the story was in
fact the smell of the decaying body of Homer Barron, Miss Emily’s sweetheart. Faced with the
thought that she was probably not going to be married as Mr. Barron “was not a marrying
man”(4), Miss Emily committed the unthinkable and hid that secret for forty years. We can see
now that the chain of events is clear that Miss Emily was a lonely and distraught woman who,
because of her distressing life, chose to live with death rather than deal with the reality or
“death” of her situation. Miss Emily decided not to see the changes that were occurring in the
world or in her own life and instead preferred to believe that she was still this noble woman as
she was so many years prior. She could not come to terms that she was just like every other tax
paying citizen from Jefferson.
With “A Rose for Emily”, Faulkner does a superb job creating wonder among his readers
with his unique and uncertain narrative view. The narration, as unusual as it may be, helps
maintain the suspense the reader feels which in turn makes the reader want more, to read more.
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The foreshadowing is so well disguised through the telling of events by the narrator that the
reader is caught off guard by the final occurrences. Suspense, anxiety, and confusion are all
present in the reader throughout the short story as its events are laid out one by one. “A Rose for
Emily” is a thought-provoking story of an old matriarchs’ life that really is a murder mystery in