The plot used in “A Rose for Emily” does not conform to thenormal structure of short narratives. Instead, William Faulkneremploys flashbacks that make the plot structure nonlinear. Thenarrator shifts back and forth from the future to the present whileinforming the reader about the protagonist’s, Emily, life. The plotdevelopment contributes to the shaping of events, which happen in thestory by creating suspense and enhancing mystery. Such a plotstructure makes it difficult for the reader to predict what willhappen next, which is an effective way of making the events that arenarrated in the story shocking.
The story is initially narrated in the present. Faulkner begins thestory at Emily’s funeral. All through the first paragraph, itbecomes apparent that all the townspeople have attended the funeral(Faulkner 1). This creates the impression that the individual beingburied was a very important member of society. Hence, at this pointthe events that will follow are unclear as there is no definite themein the story, and it is impossible to tell whether it will be atragic love chronology of events. Faulkner immediately shifts thefocus of the narrative from the largely attended funeral to informabout the life of Emily.
The narrator shifts from the present to the past by using flashbackto a time when Emily refused to pay taxes. Following her father’sdeath, the then town’s mayor, Colonel Sartoris, suspended Emily’sobligation to remit tax. But, when new town officials take over, theyare unsuccessful in convincing the protagonist that she should resumepaying taxes. She informs them that she is exempt from any citypayments in Jefferson and asks the officials to consult the formerColonel on the issue (Faulkner 1-2). Considering that ColonelSartoris has been dead for close to a decade, this event is importantin informing the reader that Emily still lives in the past. Thenarrator is now making it possible for the reader to begin tounderstand the protagonist’s life, which seems mysterious.
Her mysterious life is further enhanced by Faulkner’s continueduse of flashback to inform about a period when a bad odor originatedfrom her home (Faulkner 2). The narrator informs that the smellcoincides with the passing away of her father, and that Emily hadbeen deserted by her lover. It is not possible to question Emilyabout the bad smell because she does not allow people in her home.Instead, the then mayor, Judge Stevens, orders for lime to besprinkled around the house at night and the smell subsides after oneor two weeks.
The smell is an important aspect of the plot development because itenhances mystery and suspense. The reader is left in anticipationbecause the narrator does not inform at the moment where the smelloriginates from. By further reading the narrative, it becomes clearthat the odor was aimed at foreshadowing the final scene, when thetownspeople finally realize that the smell was emanating from a deadcorpse. Hence, Faulkner develops the plot in such a way that thesecond section of “A Rose for Emily” enhances the tragic endingof the story.
Faulkner continues to use of flashback, which significantly informsabout Emily’s past and the type of life she lives. As the narratortalks about the protagonist’s father, it becomes apparent that herfather drew away many suitors owing to the fact that they did notmeet her social status (Faulkner 2-3). In addition, he did not allowher to interact with other people. As a result, at the time of herfather’s dead, she is still unmarried and alone. Her father is theonly person she talked to and when he passes away, she is unable toaccept that he is gone and holds on to his corpse for three days.This event is significant in explaining why Emily is lives inisolation.
The narrator then shifts to the present, updating the reader aboutEmily’s current life. She meets a man, Homer Barron and theydevelop a close friendship. At this point, it becomes clear whyFaulkner initially talked about Emily’s father. This is because,with Mr. Grierson dead, she is able to start a new relationship witha man, without the fear that her father will chase him away forfailing to meet his social status. The affair between Homer and Emilydevelops and the townspeople believe that they will get married.
In a twist of events, the story shifts to a point in time when Homervisits Emily, but is never seen leaving. The story ends with thedeath of Emily and the breaking down of a door in her house that hadremained closed for forty years. Upon breaking the door, thetownspeople find Homer’s body, which has decayed. At this point, itbecomes possible for the reader to recall the bad odor emanating fromEmily’s house and link it to Homer’s corpse. It is apparent thatthe plot develops in a manner that every incident describesforeshadows an incident that happens later in the story, which is aneffective way of narrating the tragic love story.
Faulkner, William. A Rose for Emily, (n.d): 1-7.http://resources.mhs.vic.edu.au/creating/downloads/A_Rose_for_Emily.pdf