The suspense in “A Rose for Emily” builds in two different ways, which yield varying results. The character of the narrator is significant in both aspects. William Faulkner carefully avoids presenting any specific information about this narrator but has them speak in first person, which makes them seem to be one of Emily’s fellow townspeople. The narrator generates suspense about how Emily died and what happened to Homer, and both are only partially relieved. The other aspect of the suspense is even more effective: we never learn who the narrator is or how they know the vast store of information they present—or even if any of it is true.
Along with using this mysterious narrator, Faulkner uses the story’s structure to build suspense. He opens the story with the narrator referring to Emily’s death and funeral, quickly followed by details of her life in the years after her father’s death. The plot structure is not strictly chronological, however, but presents numerous incidents out of sequence as the narrator calls attention to her eccentricities. Faulkner carefully places the Homer episode about midway through the story, thereby piquing the reader’s interest in this new character and how he will fit into the overall plot. The final scenes, as the townspeople reportedly flood through her now-empty house, leave some elements unexplained. The Southern gothic aspect of the story veers toward a horror story, leaving elements of mystery unresolved at the end.