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. Moreover, before the unveiling of Homer's dead body, the scene with the chemist prompts questions about why Miss Emily needs the poison. The reader is left in suspense and wonders what is going on.
Prior to the denouement, the narrator discusses how Miss Emily dismisses the town civil servants who come to her home to ask her to pay her taxes. The narrator says:
“So she vanquished them… just as she had vanquished their fathers thirty years before about the smell.
That was …a short time after her sweetheart …had deserted her.”
The juxtaposition of the smell and the alleged desertion of Homer is telling. It foreshadows that the cause of the smell was Homer’s death. Another example of foreshadowing occurs in the discussion of Miss Emily’s behavior after her father’s death; she told the townspeople “that her father was not dead. She did that for three days…” Moreover, the narrator continues, “We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her…”
We can surmise that this is precisely what she did with Homer. Homer said “that he was not a marrying man.” Thus, he might have threatened to leave her, so she murdered him and clung to his lifeless body for years.