Freytag’s Pyramid in A Rose for Emily
Though a non-linear narrative, Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily fits well into the dramatic structure outlined in Freytag’s Pyramid. Exposition is centered around the death of the eponymous character, Emily Grierson, and details her history in the town of Jefferson. Moving backward in time, a deal between Emily and a former mayor, Colonel Sartoris, is discussed, in which Emily is remitted of all taxes due to a loan Emily’s father made to the town before his death. This expository information allows the reader to form a more substantive picture of Emily before the narrative actually begins. Faulkner establishes the tone of the story as cryptic and elliptical. Emily is someone who can only be known vaguely, through all that can be understood in a few incidents. By failing to disclose too much about Emily, Faulkner lends her an air of mystery, thus heightening the reader’s interest in her character. The story then leaps back in time thirty years, when there was concern in Jefferson over a smell coming from Emily’s house. This is the point of rising action, in which the narrative acquires tautness in conflict. Now the narrative is propelled forward by the reader’s curiosity- what is causing this horrible smell? All of this builds on the mystery surrounding Emily, she becomes not so much a woman as an apparition, a vague blur in the mind of the reader. As the narrative proceeds on it constantly moves backward in time, so that the climax occurs at the point furthest in the past. Emily’s purchase of the arsenic precedes chronologically the events of the first, second, fourth, and fifth parts of the story. A Rose for Emily inverts the traditional narrative structure in which a story generally drives toward some point in the future, delving into the past for its revelations. The purchase of the arsenic must be regarded as the story’s climax for it is the only instance in which Emily takes action within the...
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