How can I do an outline for "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the challenges for constructing an outline for Faulkner's story, "A Rose for Emily" is the fact that the plot is not in linear order. Instead, the narrative moves backward and forward in time.

Since the plot is not in chronological order, time does not control the parts of the plot such as the exposition, problem, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Instead, the reader must take another approach toward ordering Faulkner's story's plot that is filled with flashbacks.

  • Exposition 

This is the part of the plot that introduces the characters and their conflicts. The main character, Miss Emily Grierson, now dead, is introduced as

...a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town.

Problems are introduced in this exposition, which is a flashback. As Miss Emily lived in the past and was dominated by her Old South father, who acted as a patriarch. As an example of this, after her father's death, Colonel Sartoris paid Emily's taxes because he knew that she would not understand why she has to pay taxes when her father did not. Also, when she was visited by ladies who came to offer condolences after her father died, Emily informed them that "her father was not dead." After three days, ministers and doctors called on Miss Emily until she broke down and allowed her father to be buried. (This scene acts as foreshadowing.)

When a new generation of mayor and alderman came to rule the town, they did not recognize the old agreement of the Griersons with Colonel Sartoris. So, they called upon Miss Emily who sent them away, saying that the colonel paid her taxes. But, the Colonel had been dead for ten years. Nevertheless, Miss Emily

...vanquished them [the aldermen]...just as she had vanquished their fathers thirty years before about the smell.

  • Rising Action

In Faulkner's narrative, the problem has been established as the New South conflicting with the Old South in which Emily yet dwells. Ironically, then, when Homer Barron, a Yankee, starts to drive Miss Emily around, the old families do not approve and Emily, who has lived in the past, now seems to act more progressively than the other residents.
Some time passes and the ladies of the town feel strongly now that Miss Emily's actions are a disgrace, so they contact relatives and ask them to call upon her to urge Emily to break from this man. But, the townspeople learn that Miss Emily has been to the jeweler's for a man's toilet set of comb and brush; also, she has bought a complete outfit of men's clothing.

  • Climax

Miss Emily purchases arsenic; shortly thereafter, Homer Barron is gone. Miss Emily, also, does not appear for some time. When a smell emanates from her property, the nearby residents complain to Judge Stevens. But, he says that he cannot "accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad." So, four men sprinkle lime around the base of her brickwork in the dead of night; they even break open a cellar door and sprinkle lime inside. As they sneak around, a light goes on in a window and Miss Emily is seen standing there.

  • Falling Action

Except for a short while in which Miss Emily teaches china painting, her house remains closed and only the "Negro man" goes out and returns with groceries. Occasionally, the townspeople observe Miss Emily in one of the downstairs windows.

Thus she passed from generation to generation--dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse.

Finally, Miss Emily dies forty years after Homer's appearance in town. Her body is in one of the downstairs rooms. 
Emily Grierson's funeral is held and many attend. After the burial the townspeople enter the house and go upstairs to a room "which no one had seen in forty years." After breaking down the door, they find a room decorated for a bridal. On the dressing table lie tarnished items for a man's grooming and a collar and tie, "as if they had been just removed." The suit is carefully folded on a chair beneath which are two "mute shoes."

  • Resolution

A cadaver lies in the bed, having rotted underneath a nightshirt. With horror, the witnesses of this bizarre scene notice on the second pillow "a long strand of iron-gray hair." 

 

 

 

 

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A Rose for Emily

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