What is the irony in the story "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The shocking ending of the story is ironic. After Miss Emily's funeral, some men from Jefferson break down the door to an upstairs bedroom in the Grierson house. There they find the room decorated as a bridal chamber. They also find Homer Barron's decayed body in the bed, where he has lain for many years after Emily had poisoned him. Next to Homer, they find one of Emily's long gray hairs on the pillow next to him. Obviously, she had lain next to his remains, even as an old woman.

The irony in the conclusion is found in the discrepency between what the people of Jefferson believed about Emily and what was, in fact, the truth about her. For years, they had believed that they had succeeded in breaking up the inappropriate relationship between Emily and Homer. They had, after all, called in Emily's family when she had taken up with the Yankee laborer, and Homer had then gone away. They had saved Emily from dishonoring her family name. They thought. Ironically, Homer had "gone away" in a very different manner, and Emily had managed to keep Homer with her, after all.