In "A Rose for Emily" can you establish a clear chronology for all the events in Emily's life in the order in which they occurred?
How is the issue of chronology related to the larger thematic design of the story?
Yes, you can establish a chronology in the order that the actions occurred, but it is hard. Faulkner jumps back and forth, so to get it right, you have to read it VERY carefully. Here's some major events, in the actual order of occurrence:
1. Emily's father dies, and she unwillingly lets them take his body away
2. Homer Barron arrives, and is seen with Emily about the town.
3. Aunts are sent to talk Emily into either marrying or dumping Homer; shortly thereafter, Emily buys a toiletry set engraved with "H.B."; Homer leaves town, then the aunts leave. A week later, Homer shows up again, then disappears for good.
4. Neighbors notice a bad smell around her house; town elders spread lime around her house to get rid of the smell.
5. It is mentioned that 6 mos. after Homer's disappearance, Emily is seen, fat and with gray hair. For 6 or 7 years, she gives painting lessons.
6. Much later, the new politicians in town attempt to collect taxes from Emily; she refuses.
7. Emily dies, people enter the house, and make their gruesome discovery.
When Faulkner stirs up the order as the narrator tells it, it enables him to foreshadow the major events, create suspense, and mimic human memories, which are often faulty and seamlessly jump expanses of time. It makes for a much more interesting, dynamic, and thought-provoking story.
Yes, it is possible to establish a chronological ordering of the events that surround Miss Emily. It's not exactly easy to do because Faulkner definitely jumps around from time to time and memory to memory.
Probably the earliest event in the story is Miss Emily riding around the town in an old carriage with her father.
Next, Miss Emily's father dies; however, she refuses to acknowledge his death for a full three days.
Homer Barron arrives in town, and it appears that he has begun courting Miss Emily.
Miss Emily buys a man's toiletry set that is engraved with "H.B." This occurs in section 4, and the reader also learns that Miss Emily bought a complete men's outfit of clothing . . . and a nightshirt.
Homer then leaves at just about the same time that Miss Emily's cousins arrive.
The cousins leave, Homer returns, Miss Emily buys some poison, and Homer disappears for good.
Miss Emily's house begins to smell terrible, and men from the town spread lime on the lawn.
Miss Emily gives painting lessons for six or seven years, and she has grown fat and gray-haired.
An attempt is made to collect taxes from Miss Emily, and she refuses.
Miss Emily dies, she is buried, and the gruesome truth is learned about her and Homer.
A thematic design of this story deals with memory and the past. That theme could not be explored if the story was told chronologically. Part of the reality of memory is that it often doesn't work in perfect chronological order. It jumps around from event to event and links people, places, and events that don't necessarily coincide with the real timeline. Faulkner explores this aspect of memory by telling this story in a mixed-up way. It allows him to add mystery, suspense, and foreshadowing all within a relatively short amount of time. I honestly believe that this story would be much more boring if it were told chronologically.