Structure

“A Rose for Emily” was structured by William Faulkner in five parts which do not follow a chronological order of events. The story begins and ends with Emily’s death, but the main action is told in retrospect and follows Emily’s life in Jefferson. Even so, the story does include most of the elements of the plot: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. However, unlike with most stories these elements are jumbled because of the non-chronological narrative.

Title

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Beginning

The short story begins with part I which functions as an exposition set in media res (in the middle of events), at the funeral of the main character:

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 man-servant--a combined gardener and cook--had seen in at least ten years.

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Middle

The middle of the short story comprises parts II-IV which represent backstories, events that have happened before the time of the narration. These events form the rising action which follows the life of Emily in the small town.

The narrator starts with the death of Emily’s father and its impact on the woman, but also includes a gossip element. After the father’s death Emily had refused to have him buried, fell into a depression, an ugly smell developed around her property and men were sent at night to sprinkle lime to cover the smell. These are also foreshadowing elements for the story’s ending. For example: "That was two years after her father's death and a short time after her sweetheart --the one we believed would marry her-- has deserted her."

We also find out that Emily’s father used to chase away all her suitors as they were deemed beneath her level and that Emily developed a relationship with a Northern man, soon after his death.

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Ending

Part IV of the short story can be viewed as an extended falling action which covers most of the rest 40 years after Emily had bought the rat poison. She does not kill herself as the townspeople expected, her relatives go back to Alabama, and Homer is seen one last time entering her house. After that Emily never exits her house, but opens it briefly to give china-painting lessons to children.

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