What was the humor in the story A Rose for Emily?

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The examples of humor provided by other responders indicate the ways in which Faulkner plays with tone in the story. Much of the humor proceeds from verbal irony in that, for example, the narrator does not directly say the townsmen are silly men to be afraid of this old woman but allows the reader to infer it from the detail he provides. All of these examples of humor, furthermore, serve to characterize Emily as a strong woman, able to control the actions of the town to get her way. In other words, the humor “builds” her character while rendering theirs weak. Significantly, Homer Barron, the love of her life who refuses to marry her, is described as having a “good humor” and not wanting to settle down. It is as if in “settling him down” Emily confiscates his good humor, making it, although ineffectually, her own.

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Even though the events in this story are morbid, the narrator tells the story in a light-hearted manner. The ways that Emily deals with the men who come to collect her taxes is an example of this. She tells them to talk to Colonel Sartoris, and when they tell her he's dead, she expects them to discuss it with him anyway. Another example is when the smell develops around Emily's home. When a younger man suggests they confront Emily about it, Judge Stevens asks him, ". . .will you accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad?" The way in which the town decides to deal with the problem of the smell is told humorously as well. You have four grown men sneaking around Miss Emily's house after midnight to spread lime around her house and in her cellar. It is how the narrator tells some of the events that provides the humor in this otherwise gruesome story.

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