In "A Rose for Emily," what is the highest point of the story?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Faulkner saves the highest point of his story, its dramatic climax, until the very end when Homer Barron's decaying corpse is found in an upstairs bedroom in Miss Emily's house, a room which nobody has seen in the previous forty years. After Miss Emily's burial, the townspeople break into this room to discover the room has been decorated much as a bridal chamber might be. Barron's suit is neatly folded on a chair, and his shoes and socks remain exactly as he had left them the night of his murder. What remains of his body lies in the bed:

The body had apparently once lain in the attitude of an embrace, but now the long sleep that outlasts love, that conquers even the grimace of love, had cuckolded him.  What was left of him, rotted beneath what was left of the nightshirt, had become inextricable from the bed in which he lay; and upon him and upon the pillow beside him lay that even coating of the patient and biding dust.

This shocking discovery, however, does not represent the dramatic climax of the story, because another, more shocking discovery awaits. The highest point of the story isn't reached until its two final sentences:

Then we noticed that in the second pillow was the indentation of a head. One of us lifted something from it, and leaning forward, that faint and invisible dust dry and acrid in the nostrils, we saw a long strand of iron-gray hair.

The gray hair on the pillow next to the corpse completes the puzzle of Miss Emily's later years in this great Southern gothic tale. After arriving at this amazing conclusion, suddenly all the pieces of Faulkner's disjointed narrative fall into place, and the tragedy and the madness of Miss Emily's life are made clear.

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