How does Faulkner end "A Rose for Emily," and what does that say about his style?

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lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Faulkner saves the "best" detail of Miss Emily's life for the last line of the story when it is revealed that on the pillow, next to the dead body of Homer, is a "long strand of iron gray hair."  As readers we are already reeling from the reveal that she not only killed Homer and that she kept his body upstairs in the bed "in an attitude of an embrace" for what we can figure to be about 40 years.  The fact that her long gray hair is found in the bed drives us back into the text to try and figure out how old she was when her hair grew long again and turned that shade of gray. 

This leads to some thoughts about the style of the story.  Faulkner does a masterful job of crafting a clear stream of consciousness story that all logically leads us to the final shock of the last page.  If we do some quick math and look for the textual evidence, we can assume that she had been up in the bed with the dead body for at least two years, and maybe even more.  That is just an awful thought, but by the end of the story, Faulkner has given us enough other small insights and anecdotes about Miss Emily's life that we are shocked, but we are also able to feel some sympathy for her.  The narrator reveals small and large details about Miss Emily's past that help to explain what she did.  This story is a great example of how structure and detail combine to create an incredible tale!