In "A Rose for Emily," how does Emily spend the last decades of her life?  

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lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The interesting thing about "A Rose for Emily" is that the story is told in a stream of consciousness way, and therefore the chronology is not in a logical order, but there are several references to the passage of time, so we are able to discern the "order of events."  The story is dominated by one main situation -- Emily's relationship with Homer Barron, but once he "leaves" Emily appears to live a very solitary life.  By looking at the references to time we learn that in the years after Homer she gave china painting lessons for about six or seven years and then when those girls grew up "and didn't send their daughters to her" she essentially closed up her house and never left.  We learn early in the story that a group of young aldermen visited her to discuss the fact that she hadn't acknowledged or paid her taxes, but she "vanquished them as she had vanquished their fathers 30 years before that."  That reference is to the night that the men came to clean up the awful smell emanating from her house (we learn later that was the decaying smell of Homer.)  There are small references to her looking out her windows at the world passing her by.  She refuses to even let them put house numbers on her home for postal delivery.  She is living in her own little world in her house. 

In the final scene of the story, the men of the town break into the room that she has closed up for nearly 40 years.  In the details of the room, we learn about the decaying body of Homer, but the more horrific detail is that one of the men picked up a "long strand of iron gray hair."  This would suggest that Emily was sleeping with the dead body of Homer for at LEAST a couple of years after his death.  That is probably the most interesting thing she had done in the last decades of her life.

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A Rose for Emily

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