What is the order of events in "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

William Faulkner makes a deliberate choice to begin this story at the end in order to build and maintain suspense. It is up to the reader to unpick what is going on and establish what the true order of events might be. Essentially, however, it goes something like this:

Emily Grierson lives with her father, who thinks no man is good enough for her.

Emily's father dies. She at first refuses to let anyone dispose of the body. For a while, after this period, she ventures out very little, and employs a "Negro man" to keep her house for her. A dispensation is granted for Emily, on the death of her father, saying she need no longer pay taxes.

Emily is sick for a while. Then, about two years after Emily's father dies, she cuts her hair short and reappears. A construction company arrives with Homer Barron as foreman. Emily begins to be seen with Homer Barron, and it is thought that she might marry him.

Emily goes to the druggist to buy some poison. Emily says it is for rats and people think she is going to kill herself with it. However, she doesn't—instead, she begins to order items for Homer, including clothes and a toilet set.

Then Homer Barron disappears.

A strange smell is observed coming from Emily's house. Rather than challenging Emily about it, some men cross Emily's lawn and put down lime to get rid of the smell.

Emily hides herself away and is little seen for six or seven years, when she begins to give lessons in china painting.

The city authorities come to Miss Emily to tell her she needs to pay taxes. Emily sends them away.

Emily dies, and the old black servant lets the people into the house. The body of Homer Barron is then found in a bed in her home.

We can infer, then, that Emily kills Homer before the smell is detected.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One of the things that makes William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” intriguing and memorable is its enigmatic plot. Events are not related in linear order; rather, the story travels back and forth in time. The reader is yanked in and out of spaces and across years, making Emily’s crime hard to immediately discern.

While the plot can be a fun puzzle, it can also be frustratingly difficult to follow at times. Here is a list of what occurs in the story in chronological order:

  1. Emily’s father dies
  2. Colonel Sartoris pays Emily’s taxes
  3. Colonel Sartoris dies
  4. Homer comes to town
  5. Emily purchases arsenic
  6. Homer goes missing
  7. A smell emerges and becomes stronger
  8. Aldermen try to collect taxes from Emily
  9. Emily dies and Homer's body is discovered
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial