What are the major events of "A Rose for Emily"?

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jenniehissom eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The list of major events in Faulkner’s short story “A Rose for Emily” includes several deaths, and tense interactions between an isolated but acknowledged community member and the rest of the community, including its leaders. The story begins with the death of the title character, and then circles back to the events leading up to her death and the subsequent discoveries it brings.

The events of the story seem to come in parallels of events in Emily’s personal life, and events in the relationship between Emily and the town. When Emily’s father passes away, Emily refuses to admit he is dead and will not let the body be removed for burial for several days, leading the town to nearly use force to address the matter. After Emily’s father’s death, the mayor remits her taxes, which sharply illuminates the drastic change in Emily’s life from wealth and high standing in the town, while also protecting Emily from having to deal with this change.

When she has recovered from her loss, Emily is seen going out with a potential suitor, Homer Barron, which eventually leads to much disapproving gossip from the town, and the minister is pressured to intervene. During this time, Emily purchases poison from a very reluctant druggist, an event that is not proven to be major until the very end of the story. After the minister’s intervention, Emily’s cousins visit, and Emily purchases some men’s clothing and a toilet set, leading the town to believe Emily and Homer soon would be married. Instead, Emily’s sweetheart Homer disappears, and the townspeople complain about a terrible odor coming from her home. Rather than confront her about it, the town leaders secretly sprinkle lime on her property to dispel the smell. In later years, when a younger generation is in charge of the town, the mayor, aldermen and sheriff attempt to reinstate her taxes, and she refuses to engage with them, repeatedly insisting that she has no taxes. The community leaders acquiesce and leave her alone. Finally, Miss Emily dies, precipitating the discovery of the most major event in the story: Emily poisoned Homer Barron, all those years ago, kept his corpse in a locked room, and apparently slept next to it.

An interesting aspect of these major events is that some of them are seeming non-events, or attempts by Miss Emily to stall time and ignore or prevent the inevitable losses and changes that life brings to everyone. The interactions with the town also sometimes seem uneventful, as the townspeople consistently choose to avoid conflict. However, these quiet events where opportunity is lost can be major, as when the druggist allows Emily to purchase poison, despite her refusal to obey the law and explain why she needed it. The story illuminates the intense drama of even quiet small-town life, despite, and sometimes because of, all attempts to ignore or avoid it. For resources on the eNotes site that can give you more helpful information about the story and its major events, click on the reference link below.

Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," the following events occur:

  • Emily's father dies.
  • Emily tries to keep his body and says that he is not dead.
  • Emily meets Homer Barron and they date.
  • Emily buys poison.
  • Homer is seen going into her house one night and never seen again.  The townspeople assume he left town.
  • Emily's house smells horribly.
  • Emily dies.
  • A skeleton is found in Emily's upper bedroom, as is a hair that matches Emily's in an indentation in the pillow on the bed, next to the skeleton.

As you may notice, when these events are placed in order, not much of a surprise is created when Homer's skeleton is found.  This attests to Faulkner's skill as a writer and his skillfull use of point of view. 

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A Rose for Emily

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