A Rose for Emily Questions and Answers
by William Faulkner

A Rose for Emily book cover
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Why are the events in “A rose for Emily” not in the customary course of chronological order?

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The events in "A Rose for Emily" are not in the customary course of chronological order because the author aims to instill in the reader a sense of belonging to the setting. This being said, as the townsfolk tell us about the events leading to the finding of Emily and what happened to her, we receive the news the same way that they are told to us by regular neighbors: Often disjointed, not necessarily coherent, and often in a disparate order.

Hence, Faulkner wants us to feel as if the neighbors were telling us the story, the way regular people often talk. It also builds to the suspense and climax and creates an atmosphere of mystery.

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In "A Rose for Emily," the townspeople narrate the story in the following order, beginning with her death:

  1. Miss Emily dies
  2. The aldermen visit her about her taxes.
  3. Miss Emily give painting lessons.
  4. Her father dies.
  5. Homer Baron disappears.
  6. The aldermen apply lime around her house.
  7. Homer Barson arrives in town.
  8. Miss Emily asks the druggist for poison.
  9. The townspeople discover the bridal sweet.

Obviously, this is not in chronological order, because Emily is introduced as dead, and then the collective narrators flash back to her earlier life.  However, Homer Baron's event are in a kind of chronology: he is first introduced, then said to have disappeared, and then, at the end, we find his bones in the bed.

If Faulkner would have put Miss Emily's events in chronogical order, it would have culminated in her death, not his, thereby undercutting the horrifying discovery that the townspeople make (Miss Emily lying in bed with Homer Baron's corpse).  It should have been no mystery that Emily died, or Homer for that matter.  It should have been no mystery that Emily poisoned Homer.  The mystery comes when we discover her necrophelia. 

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