What are the different timelines of the life of the Emily in "A Rose for Emily"?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

1. Part 1 of the story begins with Miss Emily's death.  Faulkner writes,

"When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral . . ."

After a description of the place Miss Emily held in the town (she represents tradition) and a listing of her notable ancestors, the author begins to go back in time to right before Miss Emily died.  He states that at this point, she already shut herself up in the house and ceased to give china-painting lessons.

2. After the town's leaders visit the elderly Emily in regards to her taxes, Faulkner begins Part 2 by flashing back 30 years earlier (two years after Emily's father died).  At this point in the story, the town is concerned about the smell emanating from Emily's house.  After this incident, Faulkner does continue going back in time to Emily's reaction to her father's death.  In this section overall, Miss Emily's younger years are presented, and Faulkner even describes a very young Emily whose father drove away suitors.

3.  In Part 3, Miss Emily is still a younger woman because this is when she meets Homer Barron and develops a keen interest in him.

4.  In Part 4, Faulkner continues with Emily's "dying" relationship with Homer and brings the story back to its beginning time--Miss Emily's death.  At the end of Part 4, the narrator states,

"Daily, monthly, yearly we watched the Negro grow grayer and more stooped, going in and out [of Miss Emily's house]."

Thus, altogether, you could list at least 3 different timelines in Miss Emily's life from the story (even though Faulkner does not address them chronologically).

1. Miss Emily as a young girl of courting age (this is simply a reference made by the author to Miss Emily's father driving off suitors).

2. Miss Emily as a fatherless younger woman (perhaps in her 30s or 40s) who becomes sick after her father's death and then becomes interested in Homer Barron.

3. Miss Emily as an elderly recluse right before her death.

Read the study guide:
A Rose for Emily

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