The Structure of A Rose for Emily
William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” is a story that uses flashbacks to foreshadow a surprise ending. The story begins with the death of a prominent old woman, Emily, and finishes with the startling discovery that Emily as been sleeping with the corpse of her lover, whom she murdered, for the past forty years. The middle of the story is told in flashbacks by a narrator who seems to represent the collective memory of an entire town. Within these flashbacks, which jump in time from ten years past to forty years past, are hidden clues which prepare the reader for the unexpected ending, such as hints of Emily’s insanity, her odd behavior concerning the deaths of loved ones, and the evidence that the murder took place.
Without bluntly saying it, Faulkner, in several instances, hints that Emily has gone mad. At a few points in the story, the narrator mentions Emily’s Great Aunt Wyatt, who “had gone completely crazy at last” (paragraph 25). This is the narrator’s insinuation that insa…
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…was a desperate act of a lonely, insane woman who could not bear to loose him. The structure of this story, however, is such that the important details are delivered in almost random order, without a clear road map that connects events. The ending comes as a morbid shock, until a second reading of the story reveals the carefully hidden details that foreshadow the logical conclusion.
Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily”. An Introduction to Literature, 11th ed. Ed. Barnet, Sylvan, et al. 287-294.