William Faulkner’s short story “A Rose for Emily” is set in a small town in the Southern United States during the late 19th century. The story follows the life of its protagonist, Emily Grierson, from her early years to her death.
The story is structured around a series of key events in Emily’s life, which are presented out of chronological order. This allows Faulkner to reveal important aspects of her character and the events of her life gradually, creating a sense of suspense and mystery.
The following is a chronology of the key events in “A Rose for Emily”, presented in chronological order:
– 1894: Emily is born into a wealthy family in Jefferson, Mississippi.
– 1910: Emily’s father dies, leaving her under the control of her stern and overbearing father.
– 1911: Emily is introduced to Homer Barron, a Yankee construction worker who is in town to work on a new gas station.
– 1912: Homer Barron disappears, and Emily is left alone again.
– 1930: Emily purchases arsenic from the local drug store, claiming she needs it for rats.
– 1931: Emily kills Homer Barron with arsenic and stores his body in an upstairs bedroom of her house.
– 1932: The townspeople discover Homer Barron’s mummified body in Emily’s house.
– 1949:Emily dies, and her servant finds a mysterious letter in her room.
For years, both the title and chronology of William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” have been disputed. What isn’t in dispute is that the chronology manipulates and delays the reader’s ultimate evaluation of Emily Grierson by changing evidence. The title also tells as much as the discussion about what the rose represents. The author gives her to her only real rose, which she receives at the end of the story.
The story is Faulkner’s first published in a national magazine, Forum, and appeared in his first collection of short stories, These 13 (1931). “A Rose for Emily” is set in Jefferson, Faulkner’s fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. The action takes place over a period of thirty years, from approximately 1875 to 1905. Faulkner employs a non-linear plot structure, moving back and forth in time through the use of flashbacks and foreshadowing.
The story opens with the death of Emily Grierson and the preparations for her funeral. The townspeople gossip about Emily and her father, whom they remember as a stern man who kept her from socializing. Emily is described as a “tradition,” a “duty,” and a “care.” The townspeople feel they have to take care of her because she is alone and has no family left.
The first flashback occurs when the townspeople remember Emily’s father refusing to let her marry Homer Barron, a Yankee from up North who came to Jefferson to work on the construction of a new sewer system. Homer is described as a “big dark man” with a loud laugh who likes to drink and tell stories. He is not interested in marrying Emily, but he does enjoy spending time with her.
The next flashback takes place after Emily’s father dies. She refuses to let the townspeople in to see his body, and she will not allow him to be buried for three days. The townspeople believe she is going crazy, but they do not intervene.
The next flashback occurs shortly after Homer Barron disappears. Emily is seen buying arsenic from the local pharmacy, and the townspeople assume she is going to kill herself. However, Homer reappears a few weeks later, and it is assumed that Emily has convinced him to marry her.
The final flashback occurs years later, after Homer Barron has been gone for a long time and people have forgotten about him. Emily is seen buying men’s clothing and furniture, and the townspeople assume she is going to marry a man from the North. However, Homer Barron’s body is found in an upstairs bedroom of her house, and it is assumed that she killed him and kept his body there.
The story ends with Emily’s death, and the discovery of a mysterious letter in her room. The letter is addressed to “Sir,” and it is never revealed who the intended recipient was.
“A Rose for Emily” is a complicated story, and the chronology is integral to understanding the events that take place. By changing the order of events, Faulkner creates a sense of mystery and suspense that keeps the reader guessing until the very end.
The title, with its connotations for the story’s structure, is also a work of art in terms of subtle undertones. The meaning of the rose in the title requires some knowledge of the significance a rose had for a young woman in the South during the late 1800s and even today. Roses are given as tokens of affection or at least close friendship.
A man does not simply give a rose to a woman because she is his neighbor. The title A Rose for Emily could be interpreted, then, as an indication that the story will be about a romance, or at least a deep friendship, between Emily and someone else. And in fact, there are elements of both romance and friendship in the story. But the title could also imply that the rose is meant for Emily’s grave.
This would be consistent with the idea that the rose is a symbol of love, but in this case, it would be love after death. The title could also have a third meaning, which is suggested by the fact that Faulkner wrote the story in first person plural point of view. In other words, the “we” of the town is speaking. In this case, the rose could be seen as a symbol of the town’s love for Emily, even though she is not particularly loved by any individual in the town.
So, which interpretation is correct? The answer may be that all three are correct, and that Faulkner deliberately left the meaning of the title ambiguous in order to allow for multiple interpretations. This would be consistent with his approach to chronology in the story, which also allows for multiple interpretations. As we will see, the chronology of the story is not presented in a linear fashion, but rather through a series of flashbacks and events out of sequence. This non-linear approach allows for different ways of understanding the story.
One final note on the title: it is interesting to consider the fact that Faulkner chose to use the word “rose” rather than “flower.” The word “flower” is much more general, and could be applied to any number of different types of flowers. But the word “rose” is specific, and suggests a particular type of flower with a particular meaning. This implies that Faulkner was very deliberate in his choice of words, and that he wanted the reader to think carefully about the implications of the title.