How does foreshadowing enrich the story "A Rose for Emily?" Or how does foreshadowing make the story better

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If any story element enriches a story then it is supposed to automatically make it better.

In "A Rose for Emily" there is a great number of instances of foreshadowing that supply the story with an added air of mystery.

As a Southern Gothic tale, "A Rose for Emily" will display salient traits that include suppressed information, room for intrigue, unexpected turns and strange behaviors to color the plot in quite a dark and somewhat scary way. This is a wonderful conduit for foreshadowing, which actively welcomes the reader to further analyze the context cues contained in the story.

Faulkner manipulates foreshadowing with his use of the setting. He uses the dark, isolated setting of Miss Emily's house as the epicentre of the central mystery: what goes on behind the closed doors? Why was there a smell in the house? Why did Miss Emily creepily looked out the window while the townsmen spread limestone around her home in the middle of the night without her permission? Why does she still keep what could be deemed as a modern day slave in Tobe?

All of these questions come almost automatically as the townsfolk, the story's third person narrator, adds to the mystery by telling about Miss Emily's family. Through these additional side stories foreshadowing is built as the main stylistic device of the tale. We know that

  • Emily is a stamp of the old South, but no longer has leverage
  • Emily's father sheltered her from a normal life; nobody was ever good enough for Emily.
  • Emily grew old, lonely, and seemingly quite needy.
  • Homer, a young, loud construction fellow visiting town for work; a Yankee, possibly a drunkard, and presumably bisexual, is the least likely candidate to romance Emily. Yet, it happened! We are not told how, or why.
  • Emily is seen around town quite happy. She even purchases an engraved toilette set with Homer's initials in it. She may be getting ready to be married!
  • Homer leaves Emily. The town mourns her loneliness inwardly, but then... Homer is back.
  • Homer is never seen again and a strange smell permeates Emily's estate.

Therefore, the time-line of specific events that lead up to the final finding build up a lot of mystery and enigmatic questioning. Notice how one event causes or effects the other, and altogether they lead to the shocking end of the story.

Conclusively, Faulkner builds foreshadowing through a chain of events who are, in themselves, awkward and, what is worse, Faulkner does not get to the bottom of it. He simply lets the reader reach his or her own conclusions without adding extra details and, when the twist comes at the end, the reader understands why Faulkner chooses this style of storytelling.

Read the study guide:
A Rose for Emily

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