I was surprised by the ending. Leading up to the conclusion of the story, we have every reason to believe that Emily is staunchly proud to the point of being divorced from reality. We have no reason, however, to suppose that she is so divorced from a common sense of morality.
Though the poison is discussed at some length, I did not read that detail as a clue to the ultimate revelation of the story.
I agree with the others who weren't particularly surprised by the murder (given the many clues) but were by the mouldering corpse in the upstairs bedroom. I think it's a combination of shock and surprise and awe which I felt the first time I read this story. Kind of the same horrified fascination we all have at a gruesome accident.
I have a haerd time anbswering this honestly as I have read and taught the story so many times, but I don;t recall having been surprised by the discovery of Homer's corpse yet, at the same time, I know that I did not predict it. There was enough foreshadowing in the work (the smell emanating from the house being the key) that I was relatively certain there was a dead body in there at some time, but I wasn't prepared for it to be in her bed.
At first, it was a moment of instant revulsion. Then, I became curious. Why had she done it? I understood her need to keep him and the pressures the town placed her under, so I felt sorry for her.
The first time I read the story, I did not expect that Miss Emily had been sleeping with the corpse of Homer Baron, but I did know earlier in the story that she probably had murdered him. The clues about her purchace of the arsenic and her unwillingness to explain what it was for, plus the unbearable odor were pretty good clues that something much bigger than a rat (or maybe Homer was a rat)had died.
I believe one would have to be highly psychic to have figured out the double surprise ending of William Faulkner's Southern gothic short story, "A Rose for Emily." The surprise ending(s) is one of the highlights of the story, and it probably ranks among the greatest of all short story endings. It has been more than 30 years since I first read this story, but as I recall, I had the use of the rat poison and the source of "the smell" figured out. However, I never expected to see Homer turn up in Emily's bed, nor did I see the final twist coming: the strand of gray hair that indicated Emily had been sharing the bed with Homer for all those years. I have taught this story in many different grades (and recently had it taught to me in a college English class), and the response by most students is similar: many opened jaws in surprise; many "Ewww, gross" remarks; and always a few students who can't comprehend the ending without an explanation.
I think I must be a little bit slow because I really did not see that ending coming until it happened. Maybe I thought Homer was dead and in the house, but I don't think I would have bet on it. But I really didn't think that she would leave him to rot in the bed. And I certainly didn't think she would sleep in that bed!
I have two responses to the ending. First is "that's absolutely disgusting." Second is "poor Miss Emily." She must have been so lonely and unhappy with her life to do that. It is really unimaginable.
I agree with the above responses. When I first read the story, I figured that Emily had killed Homer after the strange smell was detected coming from her house. I linked this to the info about what happened to her father when he died. However, I did not think that she would have been sleeping with the dead body; in saying that, I was not surprised. Emily was so isolated and lonely over the years that her wanting to hold on to Homer Barron was at least understandable even though not justifiable.