In Faulkner’s "A Rose for Emily,"is there evidence that the townspeople knew what had happened with Emily and Homer prior to the shocking reveal after Emily's death?

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The townspeople clearly knew that Emily and Homer were having an affair, and they were scandalized by it. It's very unlikely, however, that anybody consciously imagined that Homer was dead and that his body was lying in Emily's bedroom.

Still, the discovery of the body is narrated in a matter-of-fact...

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The townspeople clearly knew that Emily and Homer were having an affair, and they were scandalized by it. It's very unlikely, however, that anybody consciously imagined that Homer was dead and that his body was lying in Emily's bedroom.

Still, the discovery of the body is narrated in a matter-of-fact way. Even if the suspicion existed among the townspeople, during all those years before Miss Emily's death, that she had done away with Homer, no one would have said so openly. It's an aspect of the culture of that time and place that things go unstated and that communication is not open and direct but veiled, especially in the case of a person such as Emily. Everyone pities her and is embarrassed for her. She's not only a "spinster" and a shut-in, but a "fallen woman" as well. Though there is a paradox embodied within those facts about her, they attest to Emily's being on the outside, an outcast from the conventionalized world of the postbellum South. As horrific as the discovery of the body is, probably no one is surprised by it. The ultimate irony of her story is that, despite her status in Jefferson as the Other, the reclusiveness and secretiveness of her life are simply the occurrence, in a different guise, of the repression that characterizes the culture of the townspeople as a whole.

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The narrator of Faulkner’s "A Rose for Emily" represents the townspeople and what they knew/suspected about both Emily Grierson and the fate of Homer Barron. The narrator tells the reader of three separate incidents that may be seen as evidence that the townspeople suspected that something bad had happened to Homer in Miss Emily’s house.

One such piece of evidence is Miss Emily’s purchase of arsenic. Around the time when Homer Barron left for a few days, Miss Emily purchased poison from the druggist. When asked to provide a reason for the purchase of the poison, Miss Emily merely stared the druggist down until he acquiesced and sold it to her. The narrator presents this anecdote as an example of why the townspeople were worried that Miss Emily might be going insane, but it also highlights that her refusal to tell the druggist her purpose for buying the poison was suspicious.

Another piece of evidence that Miss Emily had something to do with Homer Barron’s fate is that he is last seen entering her house by means of the back door. This incident occurs after Miss Emily’s cousins have come to town to persuade her to end her very public—and perceived as inappropriate—relationship with the northern carpetbagger. Homer does leave town for a time, but he returns again after Miss Emily’s cousins have left. However, after he is seen entering Miss Emily’s house, none of the townspeople ever see him again. As with the poison, the narrator relates this incident as more a sign of her eccentricity than anything else, but it is another event that shows that the townspeople were at least suspicious of Miss Emily.

The strongest evidence that the townspeople knew, or at least suspected, the fate of Homer Barron involves a terrible smell coming from Miss Emily’s house. This incident happens shortly after Homer’s disappearance and is coincident with Miss Emily not leaving her house for some time. Upon the first complaint about the smell, the mayor suggests it is likely a snake or rat that Miss Emily’s servant has killed. After a second complaint, men from the town sneak onto Miss Emily’s property at night and pour lye around the house and in the cellar in an attempt to mask the smell. The mayor, as well as the men who go to spread the lye, seem to understand that the smell is from a decomposing body of some kind. This, as well as the fact they are unwilling to confront her about the smell, shows that they are suspicious concerning it.

All three incidents are suggestive that the townspeople at least suspected that Miss Emily had something to do with the fate of Homer Barron.

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