Published: 24-11-2019

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Death and Decay in A Rose for Emily, a Short Story by William Faulkner

In “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner, the ultimate fate of Miss Emily and her lover are foreshadowed by understated components in the text, such as descriptions of Miss Emily and her community, events in her life, and neighborhood gossip.

The description of Miss Emily and her surroundings implies that the ending involves death and decay. For instance, Miss Emily’s home is described as “lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay” (281). From the beginning, the sexual nature of rotting is revealed. The abnormal use of the word “coquettish” to describe deterioration implies their substantial partnership later in the text. Furthermore, the description of Miss Emily in the later years, with “hair of an active man” personifies Homer Barron whose existence has been fulfilled solely by her imagination and persistence (288). Juxtaposed following Faulkner discloses that Homer disappears, this detail hints at the deep involvement Miss Emily has with Homer. The specifics of the house and herself foresee a future of perish and possession, top to the belief that there is far more to the story other than a poor, lonely lady.

The jumbled sequence of the events conveys perspectives from different time periods of the story, offering insight on events that have already occurred. For instance, in the dialogue amongst the druggist and Miss Emily, she declares, “I want arsenic”, and refuses to claim why (286). This event is one of a lot of that seems suspicious and does not disclose its significance quickly. Chronologically placing this scene soon after the funeral and the mention of the smell adds to the mystique aura of Miss Emily’s character improvement. In addition, when Faulkner explains Miss Emily’s relations with her neighbors, he mentions that she “had vanquished their fathers thirty years prior to about the smell” (283). Even though the specifics of the smell are not stated, its mention raises questions about future events of the story. It makes it possible for consideration for the cause of the smell and its connection to future events. Lastly, when Faulkner writes “And that was the final we saw of Homer Barron,” the components from earlier parts of the story acquire a lot more meaning and significance (287). Emphasized by the time that passes among Homer Barron’s move into the residence and Miss Emily’s death, Homer’s disappearance progresses from a fleeting concern to an odd circumstance. Due to its delayed look in the text, this quote implies a lot more about the smell pointed out in the beginning of the story, and leads the reader to anticipate the demise of Homer. The next time the neighborhood sees Miss Emily right after Homer’s disappearance is when her hair is gray and she has grown much fatter. Conclusive from the proof of the rare look of Miss Emily and the increasingly uncommon occurrence of the Negro, the fate of Mr. Barron appears grim.

The ending of “A Rose for Emily” is unexpected due to the subtle nature of the foreshadowing information. From very first impression, specifics about Miss Emily’s appearance, residence, and the dialogue do not obtain significance until connected to the final paragraph, exactly where it is revealed that Homer Barron has been dead for over forty years. When the whole truth is known, these specifics become far more prevalent in the structure of the story.

“A Rose for Emily” includes many components throughout the text that recommend the ending of the story by way of the filter of her neighborhood gossip circle. Even though the truth is not explained until the final paragraph, the abundance of context clues shed light on the real life of Miss Emily and Homer Barron, explaining how overseeing subtleties of life can cause a misunderstanding of the bigger picture.
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