How is Faulkner's handling of chronology within the story expressive of the nature of the townspeople's perceptions...memories and feelings about Miss Emily??

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sagetrieb eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The townspeople have in the past feared her and in the present pity her, but they cannot let her "go" because she represents "a tradition, a duty, and a care." More than anything, they like to talk about her, and that is what the narrative structure reveals. The story covers about 50 years of time, but the narrator does not present information in a chronological way. One way to understand this seemingly haphazard arrangement of events is to consider how any “gossip” might tell a story, breaking it up with memories as he proceeds. Underlying this is more structure than appears. It begins with her death, and it ends with her death. Part 1 also gives us information about the present time. In part 2, we get to know her a bit better. The narrator tells us about the “strong” Miss Emily that broke the rules but whom everyone was afraid to confront; we hear hints of what she did to Homer.In part 3, the narrator explains how the town felt sorry for her, about how she met Homer, but how in truth the town remained afraid to confront her when she bought poison. In part 4 we flash back to learn more about Homer, and that part concludes with the image of her “gray head on a pillow yellow and moldy with age and lack of sunlight.”And then finally,we learn the secret that she had kept Homer all these years after murdering him, and it ends with the image of “a long strand of iron-gray hair.”  We see her defiant (though grotesque) in this final image.

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A Rose for Emily

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