How does the plot structure influence the way a reader views Miss Emily?William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily"

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"A ghost story," as author William Faulkner himself called it, "A Rose for Emily" is a gothic tale told by possibly more than one narrator and a plot divided into five sections with a flashback design that places the Old South's chivalric code as the boundaries of the plot.  For, Section I introduces Emily as having been 

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

As such, there is a sympathy extended to Emily by the collective "we," whom critic Hal Blythe contends sympathize with Miss Emily, although they disapprove of her immorality in living with Homer Barton.

‘We remembered all the young men her father had driven away.…

And, after Homer Barron disappears, "the ladies" react,

Then we knew that this was to be expected too, as if that quality of her father which had thwarted her woman's life so many times had been too virulent and furious to die.

Sympathetic to Emily, who is "a care," and, as described in Section IV, "dear" and "inescapable," Blythe observes,

The women of Jefferson know that Emily, a fellow woman, possessed these feelings, and as women they feel as if some sort of biological bond links them to ‘‘the last Grierson."

In the concluding section, the chivalric code of the Old South's past is again revived as in Section I when the old men, dressed in their brushed Confederate uniforms and their confusion of time, imagine that they had once danced with "Miss Emily." However--alluding again to the description of Section IV's last adjective--just as the old men's memories of the decaying Confederacy and Miss Emily are skewered, so, too is Emily "perverse" as she lies beside the skeletal remains of her lover in her "coquettish decay."

Masterfully arranged, the shifts of time in the plot of William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" serve to frame the story in the antiquated chilvaric code of the ghostly Old South, thus creating a gothic horror with the gruesome details of a past perverted by noblesse oblige and lost moments of youth that have been tarnished and grotesquely reclaimed in the present.



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A Rose for Emily

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