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Faulkner confuses many first-time readers of "A Rose for Emily" with his constant jumps in time sequence--flashing forward and back as he retells the story of the aging woman with the hidden secret.
Emily Grierson was the daughter of a well-to-do Southern gentleman whose death left her a spinster with little money and little else than the old house in which she lived. Emily had few friends and scant social contact, and she came to be a "curiosity" and a subject of gossip among the townspeople of Jefferson. Then one day, Homer Barron came to town on business. A jocular "Yankee," Barron quickly became a fixture in the town during his short stay, and soon he and Emily began to be seen together. Rumors flew about Jefferson, and many people believed that the odd couple would soon marry. Then, just as suddenly, Homer disappeared.
The townspeople assumed that the two had quarreled and that Homer had gone back home, since his work in Jefferson was complete. Shortly afterward, a terrible "smell" was reported in the vicinity of the Grierson home, but it was thought to be only that of a decaying rat since Emily had recently purchased rat poison--actually arsenic--at the hardware store. From that point on, Emily was rarely seen after her breakup with Homer, and she grew fat and gray, alone in her decrepit, old home.
When she finally died, some of the townspeople could contain their curiosity no longer. They discovered that an upper bedroom had been locked, and when the door was forced open, they discovered in horror not one but two terrible surprises: On the bed lay the decayed remains of a human, and next to the corpse rested a pillow with a single strand of iron-gray hair. In one of the greatest surprise endings of any short story in history, Faulkner reveals to the reader that Emily had poisoned Homer in her bed and had slept alongside the corpse for decades since.
OK- You will get more responses with added details but I will give you the gist of it.
Ms. Emily was the daughter of a very conservative father who did not let her get along with many "gentleman callers". The story, however, takes place in so-called "modern days" when all of this is done and over with.
Yet, because of the fact that Emily's father was a town elder and knew everyone, even the town's provost and sherrif would not charge her taxes, or at least that is what her father told her.
Then, the father died, and she was left as a vestige of better Southern days. The town cotinued to somewhat modernize while she remained stuck in her old ways, including the permissive treatment of her tax money and obligations.
The story is surrounded by mystery as the "townsfolk" discloses more and more facts about Emily's life, to include the fact that she was linked to a yankee who was (of course, as part of Faulkner's agenda) a closet homosexual.
Here we have the serpentine effect of seeing how Emily has been left alone by the most important men in her life: Her father and her lover.
But, there is a catch- we do not know that Emily knows that Homer (the yankee, notice the name) is either gay, or leaving.
But he does---and she goes astray.
This is when she is recorded as going to the pharmacy to buy rat poison.
And, all that we have left is the fact that she went and got it, and, in the end of the story--she had been laying in bed with a skeleton which belonged exactly to Homer. The bed held a dead corpse, and (next to it) was the dented pillow of a person with white hair. Emily herself.
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