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I need help with writing a two and half page story with the characterization, plot/structure, conflict, climax, resolution, narrator and POV, style and theme.The Modern Short Story
A Rose for Emily
READING 2B Relate the text
structures of mythic literature
to 20th and 21st century
American novels, plays, or
films. 5A Evaluate how
different literary elements
shape the author’s portrayal of
the plot and setting in works of
fiction. 5C Analyze the impact
of narration when the narrator’s
point of view shifts from one
character to another.
did you know?
William Faulkner . . .
• dropped out of high
school and took only a
few college classes as a
special student.
• worked almost three
years at the post
office, where he was
considered lazy and
inattentive, before he
Short Story by William Faulkner
Meet the Author
William Faulkner 1897–1962
Today, William Faulkner is considered
one of the literary giants of the 20th
century. This distinction didn’t come
easily, however. Faulkner took a while to
find himself and his subject. Only after
he decided to focus on his home state
of Mississippi and his colorful family
history was the full force of his creativity
unleashed. Over an astonishing 13year span, Faulkner churned out one
masterpiece after another—among them,
The Sound and the Fury (1929), As I Lay
Dying (1930), Sanctuary (1931), Absalom,
Absalom! (1936), and Go Down, Moses
(1942). Of these artistic achievements, only
Sanctuary was a bestseller—partly due to its
scandalous subject matter—and none of the
books earned Faulkner enough money to
support his growing family. Although some
critics raved about him, many others agreed
with the New York Times that his South
was “too often vicious, depraved, decadent,
corrupt.” By 1945, most of his books were
out of print.
Narrative Challenges A glance
at Faulkner’s work would
explain why readers and critics
resisted his fiction. He w
narratives on the cutting edge
of the new modernism, aand
for the most part, he refu
to compromise with the
typical reader’s desire for a coherent,
chronological story. His novels weave
numerous flashbacks into multiple
story lines. They push sentence length
to new limits, and two of his bestknown modernist works increase the
reader’s challenge by using several highly
unreliable narrators to tell the story. The
Sound and the Fury has three first-person
narrators (see pages 934-935). As I Lay
Dying has fifteen. The story of a mother’s
dying wish, Faulkner’s fifth novel
switches narrators with each chapter,
supplying readers with the perspective
of various family members and others
involved in the story. It is anything but
an easy read.
Resurgence In 1946, an enterprising
editor named Malcolm Cowley published
The Portable Faulkner, a collection of
stories and novel excerpts that untangled
Faulkner’s elaborate saga. Cowley’s
blueprint plus a helpful introduction
sparked new interest in Faulkner. With
the anxieties of the Great Depression and
World War II behind them, more readers
were ready to accept Faulkner’s challenge
to revisit the crimes and passions of the
South—and America itself—through a
modern consciousness.
Author Online
Go to thinkcentral.com. KEYWORD: HML11-1064B
literary analysis: point of view
As you‘ve already learned, Faulkner is a pioneer of modernist
fiction (see pages 934-935 and page 1064). He uses stream of
consciousness, mimicking the flow of a character’s thoughts and
sensations to convey the subjective nature of experience. He uses
multiple narrators, taking the point of view of several characters
in a single novel. With each work of fiction, he crafts a point of
view uniquely suited to the story being told. “A Rose for Emily,”
is the story of a small town’s struggle to understand one of its
residents. Using multiple narrators would be difficult in a short
story. Using stream of consciousness would not convey what
is most important here—the public perception of Miss Emily.
Faulkner’s choice for point of view, then, is first-person-plural—an
unnamed we, the voice of the townspeople themselves.
As you read, notice the narrator’s use of first-person pronouns
such as we and our. What role does this point of view play in
your understanding of Miss Emily and her story? How might
other points of view change the narrative?
Review: Mood
reading skill: analyze sequence
Faulkner often rearranges the sequence of events in his fiction,
using flashbacks to offer a window into a character’s past or
dropping hints that foreshadow what is yet to come. As you
read, keep a chart like the one shown. In the left column, record
the story’s events as you read about them. When you finish the
story, number the events in chronological order.
Order in Which Narrator
Reveals Events
Order in Which Events Occur
1. Miss Emily dies.
2. The aldermen visit about taxes.
What makes
your skin
As the girl steps outside into the alley, the
overpowering smell of rotting garbage
assaults her nostrils. Her stomach turns
as she tries not to stare at a mass of
maggots eating a discarded hamburger,
and she shies away from the dumpster,
with its squeaking and squirming
inhabitants. Certain scenes from books
or movies are so evocative that they
leave you shaky and nauseated. Part of
what you’re responding to is the creepy
atmosphere the writers or directors have
created to mesmerize and repulse you.
DISCUSS In a small group, talk about
the one thing that really gives you
the creeps. Spiders, rats, the sight of
blood—do any of these make your skin
crawl? What movies or books have used
these things to create an atmosphere
that makes you shudder? Which works
top your “creepiness scale”? Record
the responses of your group to share
with others.
vocabulary in context
Faulkner uses these words to create a story rich with
atmosphere. Try to define each, based on its context.
1. The cabal executed their shady plans in secret.
2. The swaggering boy approached him with temerity.
3. Moonlight made the rickety house into a terrifying tableau.
4. Her imperviousness made her impossible to frighten.
Complete the activities in your Reader/Writer Notebook.
William Faulkner
background “A Rose for Emily,” like the majority of Faulkner’s stories, takes place in
the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. Published in 1930, the story portrays
social customs of the small-town South at the turn of the 20th century. Be warned that
the narrator refers to African Americans with a term that is offensive to contemporary
When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the
men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women
mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old
manservant—a combined gardener and cook—had seen in at least ten years. a
It was a big, squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated
with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of
the seventies,1 set on what had once been our most select street. But garages
and cotton gins had encroached and obliterated even the august names of
that neighborhood; only Miss Emily’s house was left, lifting its stubborn and
10 coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps—an eyesore
among eyesores. And now Miss Emily had gone to join the representatives of
those august names where they lay in the cedar-bemused2 cemetery among the
ranked and anonymous graves of Union and Confederate soldiers who fell at the
battle of Jefferson.
1. the seventies: the 1870s.
2. cedar-bemused: almost lost in cedar trees.
1066 unit 5: the harlem renaissance and modernism
a point of view
Identify the first-personplural pronoun that
establishes Faulkner’s
point of view in the
opening paragraph. For
whom does the narrator
Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary
obligation upon the town, dating from that day in 1894 when Colonel Sartoris,
the mayor—he who fathered the edict that no Negro woman should appear on
the streets without an apron—remitted her taxes, the dispensation dating from the
death of her father on into perpetuity.3 Not that Miss Emily would have accepted
20 charity. Colonel Sartoris invented an involved tale to the effect that Miss Emily’s
father had loaned money to the town, which the town, as a matter of business,
preferred this way of repaying. Only a man of Colonel Sartoris’ generation and
thought could have invented it, and only a woman could have believed it.
When the next generation, with its more modern ideas, became mayors and
aldermen, this arrangement created some little dissatisfaction. On the first of
the year they mailed her a tax notice. February came, and there was no reply.
They wrote her a formal letter, asking her to call at the sheriff ’s office at her
convenience. A week later the mayor wrote her himself, offering to call or to send
his car for her, and received in reply a note on paper of an archaic shape, in a thin,
30 flowing calligraphy in faded ink, to the effect that she no longer went out at all.
The tax notice was also enclosed, without comment. b
They called a special meeting of the Board of Aldermen. A deputation waited
upon her, knocked at the door through which no visitor had passed since she
ceased giving china-painting lessons eight or ten years earlier. They were admitted
by the old Negro into a dim hall from which a stairway mounted into still more
shadow. It smelled of dust and disuse—a close, dank smell. The Negro led them
into the parlor. It was furnished in heavy, leather-covered furniture. When the
Negro opened the blinds of one window, they could see that the leather was
cracked; and when they sat down, a faint dust rose sluggishly about their thighs,
40 spinning with slow motes in the single sun-ray. On a tarnished gilt easel before the
fireplace stood a crayon portrait of Miss Emily’s father.
They rose when she entered—a small, fat woman in black, with a thin gold
chain descending to her waist and vanishing into her belt, leaning on an ebony
cane with a tarnished gold head. Her skeleton was small and spare; perhaps that
was why what would have been merely plumpness in another was obesity in
her. She looked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water, and
of that pallid hue. Her eyes, lost in the fatty ridges of her face, looked like two
small pieces of coal pressed into a lump of dough as they moved from one face to
another while the visitors stated their errand. c
She did not ask them to sit. She just stood in the door and listened quietly until
the spokesman came to a stumbling halt. Then they could hear the invisible watch
ticking at the end of the gold chain.
Her voice was dry and cold. “I have no taxes in Jefferson. Colonel Sartoris
explained it to me. Perhaps one of you can gain access to the city records and
satisfy yourselves.”
“But we have. We are the city authorities, Miss Emily. Didn’t you get a notice
from the sheriff, signed by him?”
3. remitted . . . perpetuity: released her from paying taxes forever from the time of her father’s death.
1068 unit 5: the harlem renaissance and modernism
Explain when the
events of the story’s
first paragraph happen
in relation to those
described in lines 15–31.
Why might Faulkner have
chosen to immediately
announce Emily’s death
before revealing more
about her life? Explain.
What is your initial
reaction to Emily?
Cite two examples of
figurative language in
lines 42–49 and explain
what feeling they create.
“I received a paper, yes,” Miss Emily said. “Perhaps he considers himself the
sheriff . . . I have no taxes in Jefferson.”
“But there is nothing on the books to show that, you see. We must go by the—”
“See Colonel Sartoris. I have no taxes in Jefferson.”
“But, Miss Emily—”
“See Colonel Sartoris.” (Colonel Sartoris had been dead almost ten years.) “I have
no taxes in Jefferson. Tobe!” The Negro appeared. “Show these gentlemen out.”
So she vanquished them, horse and foot, just as she had vanquished their fathers
thirty years before about the smell. That was two years after her father’s death and
a short time after her sweetheart—the one we believed would marry her—had
deserted her. After her father’s death she went out very little; after her sweetheart
went away, people hardly saw her at all. A few of the ladies had the temerity to
70 call, but were not received, and the only sign of life about the place was the Negro
man—a young man then—going in and out with a market basket.
“Just as if a man—any man—could keep a kitchen properly,” the ladies said; so
they were not surprised when the smell developed. It was another link between the
gross, teeming world and the high and mighty Griersons.
A neighbor, a woman, complained to the mayor, Judge Stevens, eighty years old.
“But what will you have me do about it, madam?” he said.
“Why, send her word to stop it,” the woman said. “Isn’t there a law?”
“I’m sure that won’t be necessary,” Judge Stevens said. “It’s probably just a snake
or a rat that nigger of hers killed in the yard. I’ll speak to him about it.”
The next day he received two more complaints, one from a man who came in
diffident deprecation.4 “We really must do something about it, Judge. I’d be the
last one in the world to bother Miss Emily, but we’ve got to do something.” That
night the Board of Aldermen met—three graybeards and one younger man, a
member of the rising generation.
“It’s simple enough,” he said. “Send her word to have her place cleaned up.
Give her a certain time to do it in, and if she don’t . . .”
“Dammit, sir,” Judge Stevens said, “will you accuse a lady to her face of
smelling bad?” d
So the next night, after midnight, four men crossed Miss Emily’s lawn and
90 slunk about the house like burglars, sniffing along the base of the brickwork and
at the cellar openings while one of them performed a regular sowing motion with
his hand out of a sack slung from his shoulder. They broke open the cellar door
and sprinkled lime there, and in all the outbuildings. As they recrossed the lawn, a
window that had been dark was lighted and Miss Emily sat in it, the light behind
her, and her upright torso motionless as that of an idol. They crept quietly across
the lawn and into the shadow of the locusts that lined the street. After a week or
two the smell went away.
temerity (tE-mDrPG-tC) n.
foolish boldness
Reread lines 65–88.
Notice that the opening
paragraph summarizes
events in Miss Emily’s
life. Faulkner’s unique
point of view here—first
person plural—makes it
possible for this narrative
summary to include the
townspeople’s perceptions
of his main character.
Then, in the dialogue,
Faulkner captures both
gossip and the conflict
among small-town
perspectives. Think about
how the point of view
might change if Faulkner
had the length of a novel
to tell Miss Emily’s story.
He could, for example,
write entire passages from
the points of view of a
neighbor woman, one of
the complaining citizens,
and the judge. How
would the use of multiple
narrators affect this story?
4. diffident deprecation: timid disapproval.
a rose for emily
That was when people had begun to feel really sorry for her. People in our
town, remembering how old lady Wyatt, her great-aunt, had gone completely
100 crazy at last, believed that the Griersons held themselves a little too high for what
they really were. None of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily
and such. We had long thought of them as a tableau, Miss Emily a slender figure
in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground,
his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the backflung front door. So when she got to be thirty and was still single, we were not
pleased exactly, but vindicated; even with insanity in the family she wouldn’t have
turned down all of her chances if they had really materialized. e
When her father died, it got about that the house was all that was left to her;
and in a way, people were glad. At last they could pity Miss Emily. Being left
110 alone, and a pauper, she had become humanized. Now she too would know the
old thrill and the old despair of a penny more or less.
The day after his death all the ladies prepared to call at the house and offer
condolence and aid, as is our custom. Miss Emily met them at the door, dressed
as usual and with no trace of grief on her face. She told them that her father was
not dead. She did that for three days, with the ministers calling on her, and the
doctors, trying to persuade her to let them dispose of the body. Just as they were
about to resort to law and force, she broke down, and they buried her father
We did not say she was crazy then. We believed she had to do that. We
120 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.
tableau (tBbPlIQ) n. a
dramatic scene or picture
Reread lines 98–107. The
pronouns we and our
indicate that this story
is told from the firstperson-plural point of
view. The narrator is not
a single character, but
the collective voice of the
PoiNT of ViEw
Reread lines 119–124.
What is Faulkner’s
point of view in these
paragraphs, and which
personal pronoun signals
the point of view? Explain
what makes this point
of view unique in fiction.
Cite evidence from the
story to support your
She was sick for a long time. When we saw her again, her hair was cut short,
making her look like a girl, with a vague resemblance to those angels in colored
church windows—sort of tragic and serene. f
The town had just let the contracts for paving the sidewalks, and in the
summer after her father’s death they began the work. The construction company
came with niggers and mules and machinery, and a foreman named Homer
Barron, a Yankee—a big, dark, ready man, with a big voice and eyes lighter than
his face. The little boys would follow in groups to hear him cuss the niggers,
130 and the niggers singing in time to the rise and fall of picks. Pretty soon he knew
everybody in town. 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.
At first we were glad that Miss Emily would have an interest, because the ladies
all said, “Of course a Grierson would not think seriously of a Northerner, a day
laborer.” But there were still others, older people, who said that even grief could
not cause a real lady to forget noblesse oblige5—without calling it noblesse oblige.
5. noblesse oblige (nI-blDsP I-blCzhP): the responsibility of people in a high social position to behave in a
noble fashion.
unit 5: the harlem renaissance and modernism
They just said, “Poor Emily. Her kinsfolk should come to her.” She had some kin
140 in Alabama; but years ago her father had fallen out with them over the estate of
old lady Wyatt, the crazy woman, and there was no communication between the
two families. They had not even been represented at the funeral.
And as soon as the old people said, “Poor Emily,” the whispering began. “Do
you suppose it’s really so?” they said to one another. “Of course it is. What else
could . . .” This behind their hands; rustling of craned silk and satin behind
jalousies6 closed upon the sun of Sunday afternoon as the thin, swift clop-clopclop of the matched team passed: “Poor Emily.”
She carried her head high enough—even when we believed that she was
fallen. It was as if she demanded more than ever the recognition of her dignity
150 as the last Grierson; as if it had wanted that touch of earthiness to reaffirm her
imperviousness. Like when she bought the rat poison, the arsenic. That was over
a year after they had begun to say “Poor Emily,” and while the two female cousins
were visiting her.
“I want some poison,” she said to the druggist. She was over thirty then, still a
slight woman, though thinner than usual, with cold, haughty black eyes in a face
the flesh of which was strained across the temples and about the eye-sockets as you
imagine a lighthouse-keeper’s face ought to look. “I want some poison,” she said.
(Gm-pûrPvC-Es-nEs) n. an
inability to be affected
or disturbed
6. jalousies (jBlPE-sCz): blinds or shutters containing overlapping slats that can be opened or closed.
a rose for emily
“Yes, Miss Emily. What kind? For rats and such? I’d recom—”
“I want the best you have. I don’t care what kind.”
The druggist named several. “They’ll kill anything up to an elephant. But what
you want is—”
“Arsenic,” Miss Emily said. “Is that a good one?”
“Is . . . arsenic? Yes, ma’am. But what you want—”
“I want arsenic.”
The druggist looked down at her. She looked back at him, erect, her face like a
strained flag. “Why, of course,” the druggist said. “If that’s what you want. But the
law requires you to tell what you are going to use it for.”
Miss Emily just stared at him, her head tilted back in order to look him eye for
eye, until he looked away and went and got the arsenic and wrapped it up. The
170 Negro delivery boy brought her the package; the druggist didn’t come back. When
she opened the package at home there was written on the box, under the skull and
bones: “For rats.” g
So the next day we all said, “She will kill herself ”; and we said it would be the
best thing. When she had first begun to be seen with Homer Barron, we had said,
“She will marry him.” Then we said, “She will persuade him yet,” because Homer
himself had remarked—he liked men, and it was known that he drank with the
younger men in the Elks’ Club—that he was not a marrying man. Later we said,
“Poor Emily” behind the jalousies as they passed on Sunday afternoon in the
glittering buggy, Miss Emily with her head high and Homer Barron with his hat
180 cocked and a cigar in his teeth, reins and whip in a yellow glove.
Then some of the ladies began to say that it was a disgrace to the town and a
bad example to the young people. The men did not want to interfere, but at last
the ladies forced the Baptist minister—Miss Emily’s people were Episcopal—to call
upon her. He would never divulge what happened during that interview, but he
refused to go back again. The next Sunday they again drove about the streets, and
the following day the minister’s wife wrote to Miss Emily’s relations in Alabama.
So she had blood-kin under her roof again and we sat back to watch
developments. At first nothing happened. Then we were sure that they were to be
married. We learned that Miss Emily had been to the jeweler’s and ordered a man’s
190 toilet set in silver, with the letters H. B. on each piece. Two days later we learned
that she had bought a complete outfit of men’s clothing, including a nightshirt,
and we said, “They are married.” We were really glad. We were glad because the
two female cousins were even more Grierson than Miss Emily had ever been.
So we were not surprised when Homer Barron—the streets had been finished
some time since—was gone. We were a little disappointed that there was not
a public blowing-off,7 but we believed that he had gone on to prepare for Miss
Emily’s coming, or to give her a chance to get rid of the cousins. (By that time it
was a cabal, and we were all Miss Emily’s allies to help circumvent the cousins.)
7. blowing-off: here, a celebration.
unit 5: the harlem renaissance and modernism
Reread lines 154–172.
What does this exchange
indicate about Emily’s
character? What
foreshadowing do you
sense in her refusal to
comply with the law?
cabal (kE-bBlP) n. a group
united in a secret plot
Sure enough, after another week they departed. And, as we had expected all along,
200 within three days Homer Barron was back in town. A neighbor saw the Negro
man admit him at the kitchen door at dusk one evening.
And that was the last we saw of Homer Barron. And of Miss Emily for some
time. The Negro man went in and out with the market basket, but the front door
remained closed. Now and then we would see her at a window for a moment, as
the men did that night when they sprinkled the lime, but for almost six months
she did not appear on the streets. Then we knew that this was to be expected too;
as if that quality of her father which had thwarted her woman’s life so many times
had been too virulent and too furious to die.
When we next saw Miss Emily, she had grown fat and her hair was turning
210 gray. During the next few years it grew grayer and grayer until it attained an even
pepper-and-salt iron-gray, when it ceased turning. Up to the day of her death at
seventy-four it was still that vigorous iron-gray, like the hair of an active man.
From that time on her front door remained closed, save for a period of six or
seven years, when she was about forty, during which she gave lessons in chinapainting. She fitted up a studio in one of the downstairs rooms, where the
daughters and granddaughters of Colonel Sartoris’ contemporaries were sent to
her with the same regularity and in the same spirit that they were sent to church
on Sundays with a twenty-five-cent piece for the collection plate. Meanwhile her
taxes had been remitted.
Then the newer generation became the backbone and the spirit of the town,
and the painting pupils grew up and fell away and did not send their children
to her with boxes of color and tedious brushes and pictures cut from the ladies’
magazines. The front door closed upon the last one and remained closed for good.
When the town got free postal delivery, Miss Emily alone refused to let them
fasten the metal numbers above her door and attach a mailbox to it. She would
not listen to them.
Daily, monthly, yearly we watched the Negro grow grayer and more stooped,
going in and out with the market basket. Each December we sent her a tax notice,
which would be returned by the post office a week later, unclaimed. Now and
230 then we would see her in one of the downstairs windows—she had evidently shut
up the top floor of the house—like the carven torso of an idol in a niche, looking
or not looking at us, we could never tell which. Thus she passed from generation
to generation—dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse. h
And so she died. Fell ill in the house filled with dust and shadows, with only a
doddering Negro man to wait on her. We did not even know she was sick; we had
long since given up trying to get any information from the Negro. He talked to
no one, probably not even to her, for his voice had grown harsh and rusty, as if
from disuse.
She died in one of the downstairs rooms, in a heavy walnut bed with a curtain,
240 her gray head propped on a pillow yellow and moldy with age and lack of sunlight.
h Point of View
Reread lines 227–233.
When the narrator says
that “we sent her a tax
notice” and “we would
see her in one of the
downstairs windows,”
whom does “we”
indicate? And how does
this pronoun help to
convey the story’s point
of view? Support your
answer with evidence
from the story.
a rose for emily
The Negro met the first of the ladies at the front door and let them in, with their
hushed, sibilant voices and their quick, curious glances, and then he disappeared.
He walked right through the house and out the back and was not seen again.
The two female cousins came at once. They held the funeral on the second
day, with the town coming to look at Miss Emily beneath a mass of bought
flowers, with the crayon face of her father musing profoundly above the bier8 and
the ladies sibilant and macabre; and the very old men—some in their brushed
Confederate uniforms—on the porch and the lawn, talking of Miss Emily as if she
had been a contemporary of theirs, believing that they had danced with her and
250 courted her perhaps, confusing time with its mathematical progression, as the old
do, to whom all the past is not a diminishing road but, instead, a huge meadow
which no winter ever quite touches, divided from them now by the narrow bottleneck of the most recent decade of years.
Already we knew that there was one room in that region above stairs which no
one had seen in forty years, and which would have to be forced. They waited until
Miss Emily was decently in the ground before they opened it.
The violence of breaking down the door seemed to fill this room with
pervading dust. A thin, acrid pall9 as of the tomb seemed to lie everywhere upon
this room decked and furnished as for a bridal: upon the valance curtains of faded
260 rose color, upon the rose-shaded lights, upon the dressing table, upon the delicate
array of crystal and the man’s toilet things backed with tarnished silver, silver so
tarnished that the monogram was obscured. Among them lay a collar and tie, as
if they had just been removed, which, lifted, left upon the surface a pale crescent
in the dust. Upon a chair hung the suit, carefully folded; beneath it the two mute
shoes and the discarded socks.
The man himself lay in the bed.
For a long while we just stood there, looking down at the profound and fleshless
grin. The body had apparently once lain in the attitude of an embrace, but now the
long sleep that outlasts love, that conquers even the grimace of love, had cuckolded
270 him.10 What was left of him, rotted beneath what was left of the nightshirt, had
become inextricable from the bed in which he lay; and upon him and upon the
pillow beside him lay that even coating of the patient and biding dust.
Then we noticed that in the second pillow was the indentation of a head. One
of us lifted something from it, and leaning forward, that faint and invisible dust
dry and acrid in the nostrils, we saw a long strand of iron-gray hair.  i
8. bier: coffin along with its stand.
9. acrid pall: bitter-smelling gloom.
10. cuckolded him: made his wife or lover unfaithful to him.
unit 5: the harlem renaissance and modernism
This story ends with a
grotesque discovery,
but from page one the
author’s dark, gothic
mood has prepared us
for a creepy revelation in
the end. With “A Rose for
Emily” and other stories
and novels, Faulkner
invented a unique vision
of the South—a mythic
narrative weighed down
by gloom and peopled by
deeply flawed characters.
Faulkner’s mythic South
has influenced Southern
fiction ever since—from
the short stories of
Flannery O’Connor to
more recent fiction by
writers such as Alan
Gurganus and Edward
P. Jones. What makes
a story like “A Rose for
Emily” so compelling?
Explain your answer.
After Reading
1. Recall Why was it difficult for Emily to meet suitable men in her youth?
2. Clarify What happened to Homer Barron?
3. Clarify What does the condition of the upstairs room in the Grierson house
and the iron-gray hair on the pillow indicate?
READING 5A Evaluate how different
literary elements shape the author’s
portrayal of the plot and setting
in works of fiction. 5C Analyze
the impact of narration when the
narrator’s point of view shifts from
one character to another.
Literary Analysis
4. Make Inferences Use clues in the story to infer Emily’s motivation for
murdering Homer. Why was the relationship considered a “disgrace” and a
“bad example to the young people”? What were Homer’s intentions?
5. Examine Methods of Characterization Explain how Faulkner uses physical
descriptions of Miss Emily, stories of her conflicts with the townspeople, and
the revelation of the story’s final paragraph to characterize his protagonist.
Support your answer with evidence from the story.
6. Analyze Mood How would you describe the overall mood of “A Rose for
Emily”? Skim the story, identifying at least three passages that create an
especially strong atmosphere for the reader. Explain which literary elements
contribute to each passage’s mood.
7. Analyze Point of View What point of view does Faulkner use to narrate
“A Rose for Emily”? Explain how this point of view contributes to the
characterization of Miss Emily’s town and how it compares to Faulkner’s
modernist experiments with point of view.
8. Evaluate Sequence Examine the chart you filled in as you read. How does
the order in which the story’s major events occur differ from the order in
which the narrator presents them? Consider the effect created by Faulkner’s
manipulation of the story’s sequence. What would the story lose if it were
told in strict chronological order?
Literary Criticism
9. Historical Context Faulkner lived, as one critic put it, “with one foot deep in
the traditions of the Old South and the other poised for the possibilities of a
modern era.” What are some of the indications that this story was written
in another time? Citing evidence, describe how Faulkner’s story reflects an
American society different from our own.
What makes your

skin crawl?
How does the last sentence of “A Rose for Emily” confirm the story’s creepy
atmosphere? Explain your answer.
a rose for emily
Vocabulary in Context
vocabulary practice
Chose the word that is not related in meaning to the other words.
1. (a) overconfidence, (b) temerity, (c) dismay, (d) brashness
2. (a) contempt, (b) cabal, (c) disdain, (d) scorn
3. (a) endurance, (b) imperviousness, (c) decency, (d) resistance
word list
4. (a) tableau, (b) mesa, (c) plateau, (d) upland
academic vocabulary in writing
• conclude
• criteria
• despite
• justify
• maintain
Faulkner concludes “A Rose for Emily” by solving the mystery of his main
character. What are your criteria for a successful ending? Develop your answer
in a short paragraph. Use at least three Academic Vocabulary words in your
vocabulary strategy: etymologies
Many English words have intriguing histories, or etymologies. The vocabulary
word cabal, for instance, can be traced back to kabbala, the name of an ancient
Jewish mystical belief system. We can often develop a better understanding
of the current meaning of a word by learning about its history. Standard
dictionaries, we all as etymological dictionaries, are excellent sources of word
histories. A typical word history may show the history of the word in the English
language (its form in Middle English, for example) as well as its relationship to
words from other Germanic languages or to the Romance languages.
READING 1E Use general and
specialized dictionaries and histories
of language (printed or electronic)
as needed.
PRACTICE Using a standard dictionary, an etymological dictionary, or the
Internet, research the histories of the following words. Look for the history of
the word in the English language as well as its relationship to words in other
contemporary languages (German, Dutch, Italian, French, etc.) and in Latin.
1. trivial
5. quarantine
2. decimate
6. malaria
3. abacus
7. ketchup
4. aardvark
8. dexterity
unit 5: the harlem renaissance and modernism
Go to thinkcentral.com.
Conventions in Writing
grammar and style: Choose Effective Point of View
Review the Grammar and Style note on page 1070. Part of what makes “A Rose
for Emily” so interesting is the first-person-plural point of view—using we
and related pronouns to tell the story. Usually, the first-person point of view
is singular, an I who acts as both narrator and character. Faulkner’s use of the
plural creates a curious mixture of intimacy and anonymity. That is, the voice
behind the we sounds personal, but readers don’t know exactly who the voice is:
WRITING 16 Write persuasive
texts to influence the attitudes
of a specific audience on specific
CONVENTIONS 17 Understand the
function of and use the conventions
of academic language when writing.
We learned that Miss Emily had been to the jeweler’s and ordered a man’s toilet
set in silver, with the letters H. B. on each piece. Two days later we learned that
she had bought a complete outfit of men’s clothing, including a nightshirt, and
we said, “They are married.” We were really glad. (lines 189–192)
This kind of narrator has the effect of making the town appear as a complete
entity with a personality and opinions all its own.
PRACTICE Try using the first-person-plural point of view to create a narrative
of your own. Choose a group—a family, for example, or a sports team—and
describe, in a paragraph, an event or experience from their point of view.
Be sure to use the correct pronouns—we, us, our, ours—in your narrative.
reading-writing connection

Expand your understanding of “A Rose for Emily” by responding to the
prompt below. Then, use the revising tips to improve your essay.
writing prompt
revising tips
you think the townspeople in “A Rose for
Emily” bear any responsibility for what
becomes of Emily? Why did they initially
think she would use the arsenic to kill
herself—and what did they seemingly
think of this decision? What if they had
stopped the minister’s wife from writing
to her cousins? Why didn’t they think to
investigate Homer Barron’s disappearance?
• Share your essay with a
peer who has supported a
contrasting position.
Review the story, especially sections III and
IV, to clarify your opinion and gather evidence.
Then write a three-to-five-paragraph argument
to try to convince someone else.
• Ask your peer to identify
unconvincing ideas and
passages in your essay.
• Strengthen your reasoning
and find additional evidence
to support your position.
Go to thinkcentral.com.
a rose for emily

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