The primary significance of this quote from "A Rose for Emily" is the subtle foreshadowing that suggests the events to come in the climactic and surprise ending. Following Homer's disappearance, Emily is rarely seen outside her house, only visible through "one of the downstairs windows." Her reclusive behavior, lifeless appearance and refusal to leave the house is suggested by the descriptive, rhyming simile,
... like the carven torso of an idol in a niche, looking or not looking at us, we could never tell which.
Homer's whereabouts is foreshadowed by the observation that
... she had evidently shut up the top floor of the house...,
in order to restrict "the smell" and, possibly, to prevent her manservant, Tobe, from entering the upstairs bedroom. The final line is meant to show the passing of time and how Emily, shut up in her house, is immune to the changing outside world that continues to pass her by. The final word, "perverse," foreshadows what the townspeople think of her when they discover what she had hidden for so long inside the upstairs bedroom.