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