Plot Analysis of a Rose for Emily

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Phung Thi Thuy Dung

Porfolio Entry: Plot development of a story or a movie you like

A Rose for Emily

William Faulkner

A Rose for Emily is one of stories in The Collected Stories of William Faulkner (1950). This story is about the life of Emily Grierson, a woman who presents for the last generation of traditional Southern America noble families. The tragic life and death of Miss Emily demonstrates how family’s autocracy and society’s prejudice could ruin a woman’s life who only longs for love, longs for having her own family.

As many others remarkable short-story, this Faulkner’s fiction appears with a subtle use of plot. The back and forth between past and present can confuse readers who is familiar with chronological arrangement. Nevertheless, this complicated arrangement has a significant impact on disclosing the grim surprise in the end of the story. A Rose for Emily is divided into five sections. Each section is in proportion to one noticeable event in the life of Emily. The narrator speaks in the “we” voice – the first-person plural perspective, represents the townspeople of Jefferson. The story is set in the South of American, in a period of time ranging from before to after the Civil War. Therefore, the conflict the story containing is the combination of conflicts inside Emily herself and the society’s conflict.

The story begins with the exposition: the announcement of the death of Miss Emily Grierson and how the entire town feels when attending 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… had seen in at least teen years…” The first sentence of the story reveals with reader the isolated life of Emily and the special position of Emily in the thought of Jefferson’s community. In the narrator’s eyes, she was a “fallen monument”, a pitiful remnant of the past.

To the next paragraph, the narrator describes the Grierson’s old house which long ago used to have a golden age. Now, existing among modern garages and gas pumps which come along with the invasion of the North, this decayed southern house is nothing than “an eyesore among eyesores”. The detail about the house is an implicit introduction for the one of conflicts in A rose for Emily: the conflict between the South and the North.

After the short introduction, the narrator starts focusing on Miss Emily – the protagonist of this story. However, the imaged of Miss Emily which is described now is not the young Emily but an old lady living in an ancient house with a “charitable” tax exemption. Time of the story steps back not at the starting but at a later position. In additional, this situation also leads the readers to the first conflict in the story which is related with Emily’s tax immunity: The conflict between her and the next generation of Jefferson – the town she lived in. In the past, after the death of her father, Colonel Sartoris remitted her taxes forever. Nonetheless, new city authorities did not accept this arrangement. They tried many ways to contact her and make her pay her taxes but none of them work. Finally, they came to her house asking for her to obey. And she turned them down with an extremely cold and determined attitude. By depicting the collapse of her house and even herself, her ugly appearance and her cold words, the narrator give the readers the first impression of who Miss Emily is, shows the readers Emily’s poor life and make the readers curious about her personality.

In section two, when the first conflict seems to be resolved, the author takes us to the second conflict by the similarity between it and the first one: the clash between Miss Emily and other people in society. This conflict happened thirty years earlier, two years after her father’s death and a short time after her lover left her. People could not stand the terrible smell from her house but...
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