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A Rose for Emily (Summary/Analysis)

William Faulkner’s 1931 story of a town’s perspective on a troubled woman reveals the details of Emily’s life in pieces. This point of view
provides information out of chronological order from the perspective of the collective first-person narration of the town. This narrative strategy
forces readers to work at patching the story together, uncovering the mysterious motives for and results of Emily’s bizarre, reclusive behavior.

Sections One and Two: Emily Grierson, Taxes, and Her Father’s Death

The story is told in five sections. The first section begins with the information that Emily Grierson has died. Emily, the narrator(s) tell us, was a
woman who was from a family that was once one of the most respected and prosperous in the town, but after her father’s death was left a
pauper. The town, out of pity and old-fashioned respect for a lady, remitted Emily’s taxes for decades. However, times are changing in this
small, Southern town, and soon, as part one explains, Emily will be confronted about her outstanding tax payments.

It is through the town’s confrontation with Emily about the taxes that the first glimpse into Emily’s reclusive eccentricity is provided. Emily is
insistent upon not paying the taxes and sends the tax collectors away. Readers learn that this is not the first time Emily has caused a problem.

In part two of the story, it is explained that thirty years prior to Emily’s death, a horrible smell was coming from her house. Rather than
confront her directly, since she was a shut-in and the town felt it impolite, members of the town went to her house at night and sprinkled lime
around the perimeter. The smell disappeared after a few weeks.

Also, part two is where more information is given about Emily’s father. Emily was raised by her father, who was very protective of her. The
townspeople-narrator explains that Emily’s father never thought anyone was good enough for Emily, and that is why she never married. When
her father died, Emily was left with nothing, and didn’t cope well with his passing. In fact, Emily was in denial about the death, refusing to let
anyone take the body for three days.

Sections Three and Four: Homer Barron and the Arsenic

Not long after her father’s death, Emily meets a construction worker named Homer Barron, who is working in Jefferson, the town Emily lives in.
Even though Homer would not have been a socially acceptable companion had Emily’s father been alive (Homer was a construction worker and
from the North), Emily and Homer began spending a great deal of time together. When it appears that Homer will be leaving town, Emily
decides to buy some arsenic. The town, as stated at the beginning of section four, believed Emily bought the poison to commit suicide.

Homer Barron does vanish, never to be seen again in Emily’s lifetime. For most of the remainder of Emily’s life, she remained closed up in her
house. She only had one manservant who was admitted to enter, a man named Tobe, who seemed to be Emily’s only socialization with others
at the end of her life. Emily died in a downstairs room of her house, at 74 years of age.

Section Five: The Discovery of Emily’s Secret

Section five puts all of the pieces together. The townspeople, after Emily’s funeral, open up the upper rooms of her house. This is where they
discover the reason for the smell, the arsenic, and Homer Barron’s disappearance. The body of Homer Barron is found in a bedroom in the
upstairs of Emily’s home. On the pillow next to it is a grey hair, which one may presume to be Emily’s.

A Rose for Emily’s plot may be what some call “twisted.” This is true in more ways than one. The events are given in jumbled order, out of
chronological sequence. The result is the reader’s need to piece the story together, all of the pieces resulting in the last grotesque image,
revealing the depth of Emily’s problems through the fact that she has been sleeping in a bed with her long-dead former suitor.

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