A Rose for Emily Questions and Answers
by William Faulkner

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Foreshadowing In A Rose For Emily

In "A Rose for Emily," what details foreshadow the conclusion, and how does this create interest and suspense?

In "A Rose for Emily," some details that foreshadow the conclusion are the unpleasant smell that emanates from Emily's house, Emily purchasing rat poison, and the disappearance of Homer. This creates interest and suspense because the reader is left wondering how these details will come together to reveal what Emily is hiding.

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In A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner, the ending holds a surprise twist. In the bed in Miss Emily’s room is the skeleton of her long dead boyfriend. The impression of Miss Emily’s head and a long strand of her gray hair is next to his pillow. Thus, the reader understands that Miss Emily had been sleeping with the lifeless body of her lover since she murdered him.

Faulkner provides several details that foreshadow this bizarre conclusion and create interest and suspense. Earlier in the novel, Faulkner describes an unpleasant odor that emanates from Miss Emily’s house. Once the reader learns that Homer Barron’s body has been decaying in the bedroom all these years, it is clear that this was the source of the odor.

Moreover, Miss Emily purchases rat poison, but in her haughty way, mysteriously refuses to tell the chemist her intended use for it. Again, with the revealing of Homer’s dead body, the conclusion is that Miss Emily killed him and kept his dead body in her home for years....

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Fores shadowing is an important motif throughout the story. Even the conclusion of the story is foreshadowed by Emily’s refusal to allow her father to be buried, by her purchase of rat poison, by the disappearance of Homer Barron, and by the pervasive smell of decay. In fact, these foreshadowings are so evident it is a wonder that, for those reading the story for the first time, the ending is so surprising. Much of the surprise  seems due to the narrator’s back-and-forth, unchronological method of telling the events of the story. We aren’t told in proper sequence that (1) Emily buys poison, (2) Homer disappears, and (3) there is a mysterious odor—a chain of events which might immediately rouse our suspicions. Instead, we hear about odor, poison, and disappearance, in that order. By this arrangement, any connection between these events is made to seem a little less obvious.