Altering Chronological Order For Dramatic Effect: A Rose for Emily
In William Faulkner’s not-so short story, A Rose for Emily, chronological order is altered in order to add suspense during, and closure after, the narrative. The storyline revolves around an eccentric aristocrat, Miss Emily Grierson, residing in Jackson, Mississippi, during the post-civil war reconstructive era. The Grierson family is one of old money. The story is told from the perspective of the townspeople, who also serve as the narrator. Bouncing between time periods, Faulkner drops several clues about the eventual conclusion, which happens to be at the first paragraph of the text.
Miss Emily Grierson is first shown as a middle aged woman. Her father, who strictly dictates her schedule, allows very little contact with the opposite sex: “We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will.”(271) Miss Emily never had to pay taxes because of her social status; she was a legend of the town. This drives the story seeing as people are scared to approach her and the contents of her house are unknown.
As the story develops, Miss Emily’s personal life becomes even hazier. She is untouchable by the law, and not even a board of aldermen can make her pay taxes. She tells them to speak to Colonel Sartoris, who ironically has been dead almost a decade. The town is more skeptical of her mental state, especially because she denied her father’s passing for three days. Being the first time she has shown something actually wrong with her mentality, the author drops his first clue. Hinting even more at mental illness, Faulkner introduces old lady Wyatt, Miss Emily’s mentally unstable great aunt. Mental illness may be heredity in the Grierson family.
After the death of her father, the town begins to feel pity for Emily. She dates a construction supervisor, Homer Barron. He is not of her social class, yet is seen taking Miss Emily out occasionally.
“Whenever you heard a lot of laughing anywhere about the square, Homer Barron would be in the center of the group. Presently we began to see him and Miss Emily on Sunday afternoons driving in the yellow-wheeled buggy and the matched team of bays from the livery stable.”(273)
Her dating leads to further pity and superciliousness from her neighbors. To perplex her situation even more, she purchases without any explanation, a large quantity of rat poison. Fearing Miss Emily, the townspeople do not attempt to find out the origins of her need for arsenic; they believe she will attempt suicide.
The timeline jumps from the disappearance of Homer to the