What does the second paragraph contribute to the story as a whole in "A Rose for Emily"?
The second paragraph of William Faulkner's short story "A Rose for Emily" contributes greatly to the story in many ways.
First, it describes the enigmatic home of Emily Grierson; an equally-enigmatic woman, whose absence from the public eye has caused both awe and mystery. The paragraph's explanation of the Antebellum, Gothic, and now run-down house basically tells us that, like the home, Emily is also a "thing of the past"; an eccentric who, just like her home, has refused to let time pass by.
It was a big, squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies, set on what had once been our most select street.
Later, the paragraph explains further why this home, as well as Emily, are so dissonant with their surroundings. It is because this paragraph explains how the Civil War took with it everything that once was considered "unique", "gallant", or even "honorable", and instead made everyone start over from scratch. This pertains to Emily, who seems to have come from good, Southern stock. However, the War, and many other social changes have rendered her a mere memory of a distant past.
But garages and cotton gins had encroached and obliterated even the august names of that neighborhood; only Miss Emily's house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps—an eyesore among eyesores.
This information also performs the duties of foreshadowing. We see how, if Emily's house was left "an eyesore among eyesores", then this means that Emily is also detached from her own home. It is as if she, too, had lost the Civil War and, as a beaten down woman, she refuses to take part of any reconstruction for herself, or for her home. This equally means that Emily is a person that will refuse to reconstruct her old ties with society.
And now Miss Emily had gone to join the representatives of those august names where they lay in the cedar-bemused cemetery among the ranked and anonymous graves of Union and Confederate soldiers who fell at the battle of Jefferson.
This final part of the paragraph describes Emily as, basically, an artifice of history whose once-grandiose last name, family status, or links to society, are no longer important. She is no longer valid as part of the old order of things. She is now one with the rest of the world. Surely this cannot be an easy thing. Surely, this is bound to cause some sort of battle between Emily and the rest of the changing world. However, this paragraph tells us exactly how that battle would occur, and almost lets us into what will happen with Emily as a result of her stubbornness.