Examine how William Faulkner uses the motifs of death and decay to foreshadow the events in "A Rose for Emily"

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The descriptions of the decaying house, a decaying society of the  South, the decaying father within the house, and the decaying Emily thread throughout William Faulkner's masterful Gothic tale, "A Rose for Emily."  With this atmosphere of decay and foreboding and an overriding tone of mystery, the reader is prepared for Emily's unnatural act at the story's end.

In the second paragraph of his narrative, Faulkner describes the house that is left after Emily's death:

lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay about the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps--an eyesore among eyesores.  

Then, he mentions Emily as having gone to join those of august names from the South.  As representative of the South, Emily "had been a tradition."  Part II's flashback, the "vanquishing" of the city officials by Emily when they come for her father's body foreshadows the grotesque ending in which Emily also retains another body, that of her lover.  In another scene which foreshadows Emily's bizarre behavior at the story's end, the narrator's comment on her behavior regarding her father's death,

We did not say she was crazy then.  We believed she had to do that.  We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will.

Coquettish decay, vanquishing others, clinging to that which had robbed her--all of these actions along with the decay of the house and her father, Emily's crumbling old society, and the departure of her Negro servant set the tone and create the atmosphere that foreshadows and prepares the reader for what is to come.

Read the study guide:
A Rose for Emily

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question