What is the plot of "A Rose for Emily"?
Author William Faulkner's plot in his short story, "A Rose for Emily," basically serves to tell the life story of Miss Emily Grierson, a member of one of the venerable families in the mythical Mississippi town of Jefferson. Faulkner's story line jumps around in time, creating a somewhat confusing sequence of events. However, we learn that Emily has had a strict father who allows her little freedoms growing up, and he looks down upon most (if not all) of her suitors. Emily has few friends, and when her father dies, she refuses to allow his body to be removed until forced to do so by authorities. She lives alone in the aging family home, served only by a Negro manservant. Emily eventually courts the visiting Yankee foreman, Homer Barron, spurring gossip throughout the town when it is believed that they are to be married. Homer disappears and the townspeople assume that the relationship is over. Then, a mysterious smell pervades the grounds of the Grierson house. Little is seen of Emily for years, and she retreats to the solitude of her house until her death, when authorities discover a terrible secret.
In Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," the following events occur and serve as major plot points. Notice, they are not related to the reader in this order in the actual story:
- Emily's father dies.
- Emily tries to keep his body and says that he is not dead.
- Emily meets Homer Barron and they date.
- Emily buys poison.
- Homer is seen going into her house one night and never seen again. The townspeople assume he left town.
- Emily's house smells horribly.
- Emily dies.
- A skeleton is found in Emily's upper bedroom, as is a hair that matches Emily's in an indentation in the pillow on the bed, next to the skeleton.
As you may notice, when these events are placed in order, not much of a surprise is created when Homer's skeleton is found. This attests to Faulkner's skill as a writer and his skillfull use of point of view.
I would answer this by saying that there isn't that much of a plot. This story isn't driven by a sequence of events, really. Instead, there are a series of vignettes that reveal Miss Emily's character and circumstances.
We see her run off the people who have come to ask her to pay taxes.
Then we are back thirty years and the horrible smell is coming from her house. The men go to sprinkle lime and see her watching them.
Then we get about as much as there is of a plot -- this is the part where Homer Barron comes to town, has a relationship of some sort with Emily, and then leaves.
From there, we jump ahead, for the most part, to her funeral.
So, as you can see, there is not really a sequential plot like some stories have.
The plot develops out of the contrast or conflict between Emily and her former station, on the one hand, and the townspeople, on the other. Emily represents a way of life that has died and been replaced, even though she bears the vestiges of the power that this previous Southern gentility had held. The details about the forgiveness of her taxes, for example, including the awe she inspires in the deputation from the town, is an especially powerful example of the residual respect in which her family had been held by the townspeople.