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. 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.

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Faulkner begins the short story by commenting on Emily Grierson's enigmatic nature, which shrouds her character in mystery and foreshadows the secret behind her closed doors. Faulkner writes that the community of Jefferson has not seen the inside of Emily's house in ten years and is anxious to look into her residence. Faulkner also builds suspense by telling the story out of chronological order, adding important bits of information, which foreshadow the dramatic ending. In Part Two, the reader learns that there was once an awful smell emanating from Emily's home. The community had to secretly spread lime throughout Emily's yard to eliminate the odor. Faulkner then foreshadows Emily's declining mental state by revealing that there is a history of mental illness throughout her family. The fact that Emily refuses to acknowledge her father's death also foreshadows her behavior after Homer dies.

In Part Three, Faulkner discusses Emily's relationship with Homer Barron, which is frowned upon by the citizens of Jefferson. Emily's decision to buy arsenic also foreshadows her subsequent crime. Homer Barron's disappearance and Tobe's swift exit foreshadow the community's discovery. Faulkner's ingenious use of structure builds suspense and drama by gradually revealing significant pieces of information, which foreshadow Emily's shocking secret.

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There are a couple of details which foreshadow the story's conclusion, which is the discovery of Homer Barron's rotted corpse. Firstly, the conclusion is foreshadowed when Emily's father dies. Instead of releasing his body for burial, Emily refuses to acknowledge his death and does not allow anybody into the house for three days. With Homer, Emily clings to his body for an even longer amount of time. In fact, it is only through her death that his body is discovered.

Secondly, the strong smell which emanates from Emily's house suggests to the reader that something suspicious is going on. The smell begins almost immediately after Homer's disappearance, further adding to this suspicion, but the townspeople do not want to question Emily about it because she is a "lady."

By using foreshadowing to hint at the story's conclusion, Faulkner creates intrigue, keeping the reader interested in the plot development and guessing the outcome to the very end.

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Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" contains numerous examples of foreshadowing, and it's the foreshadowing that gives the surprise ending legitimacy once it occurs.

First, Emily is reluctant to give up her father's body once he dies.  She keeps it in the house until she is finally talked into releasing the body for burial five days after her father's death.  In this instance, the townspeople are aware of her father's death, so ultimately she has no choice but to give up the body.

Second, Emily buys poison.

Third, Homer disappears but nothing is said about anyone ever seeing him leave.

Fourth, the house smells.

Faulkner manipulates these events by relating them in piecemeal fashion so they do not come off as hints, but instead can be used as foreshadowing to legitimize the ending for the reader.

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Several examples of foreshadowing that point to Homer's fate are found throughout the story. Miss Emily's relationship with Homer is so frowned upon by the community that her relatives are called in to stop it. Emily buys arsenic and refuses to tell the druggist how she intends to use it. A terrible odor starts coming from the Grierson house. Homer is last seen alive entering Emily's house by the back door. Nobody has been inside the house for many years. Emily has a family history of madness, and her behavior when her father died suggested that she herself was mentally unsound.

These details strongly suggest that Homer has met an untimely death at Emily's hands, but Faulkner holds our interest and builds suspense in the story through its literary structure. The story is divided into five parts, and the events in the plot are rearranged so that they do not come to us in chronological order. Thus each detail that foreshadows the story's conclusion becomes a piece in the puzzle that is Emily's life after her father's death. When the door to the upstairs bedroom is forced open and Homer's decaying corpse is discovered, all the pieces fall into place, and we realize what Emily has done. When the indentation of someone else's head is discovered in the pillow next to Homer's remains, along with a long gray hair, the horror is made even greater. With this shocking conclusion, we realize finally the full extent of Emily's madness and lonely desperation.

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