What is the effect of the final paragraph of "A Rose for Emily"?
Although Faulkner does provide clues throughout the piece that something is not quite right with Miss Emily, he intentionally does not fully "prepare" the reader for the ending. Is the lack of preparation created by the use of a first-person plural pronoun?
The effect of the final paragraph is to create shock and horror. Throughout the entire piece, Faulkner does give clues that Miss Emily could have inherited some of her family's insanity, but because the narrator's view is peripheral, the reader doesn't know anything more about what goes on inside the Grierson home than the town does. It is only in the final paragraph where all the puzzle pieces come together to answer the questions created throughout the story. Why did Miss Emily buy poison? Why did she purchase men's items in the store? What had happened to Homer Barron? What had happened to Miss Emily? The answers to these questions are shocking and disturbing. The reader is left staring at the gray hair and indentation on the bed along with the town, and Faulkner never directly says what happened, but the implications are clear.
The final paragraph reveals both the town's callousness towards Emily's loneliness as well as the gruesome reality of the life she had been living. The shock of realizing that Emily had been sleeping with a corpse (as evidenced by the indention of her head on the pillow beside the decomposed body and the gray hair atop the pillowcase) makes their guilt very palpable. Throughout the story, Faulkner has carefully implicated the townspeople by phrases such as "we" and "our" in order to convey the feeling that this tragedy is the result of a systematic group failure.
Faulkner does not prepare us for the utterly gross surprise the townfolk witness when entering the tomb like room in Miss Emily's house; although he does effectively use the elements of foreshadowing and flashback to give minimal clues or inuendos as to what could possibly happen. The first person point of view allows the reader to minimally see what is happening thus encompasses many of the traits of gothic literature- in simple terms to shock, awe, and repulse. Without keeping the reader "in the dark" as to what Miss Emily's intentions and mind set are would result in a rather boring and uninteresting piece. It is not only the repugnant and gross ending that captivates it's readers, it is the journey through Miss Emily's life and suspenseful walk up the stairs that makes this story so appealing.