A Rose for Emily Questions and Answers
by William Faulkner

A Rose for Emily book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Will somebody please explain the ending of "A Rose for Emily" to me? I must have not been paying attention to certain key parts of the story, but I don't want to have to go back, find which parts those are, and read the whole story over again. Thanks.

Expert Answers info

Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2015

write10,181 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

At the end of the short story, the townspeople attend Miss Emily Grierson's funeral, and several curious citizens enter her home in order to clean out her possessions. The townspeople are curious to enter Emily's upstairs room, which nobody has been seen in over forty years. They break down the upstairs door to discover a room that is "furnished as for a bridal," and everything is covered with a thin layer of dust. They then discover Homer Barron's skeleton lying on the bed next to a pillow, along with a strand of iron-gray hair on it. The citizens' dramatic discovery suggests that Emily Grierson has been lying next to her dead lover's corpse each night, which is both shocking and macabre. The mystery of Homer Barron's disappearance is solved, and Emily Grierson's mental instability is portrayed by her implied necrophilia.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Reuben Lindsey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2005

write1,774 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Business

At the end of the story, the narrator is describing the state of Miss Emily's house after her death.  The townspeople, particularly townswomen, have gone in to clean out the house in the wake of Emily's passing.  This is the first time in years that anyone has been inside the house, with the exception of Miss Emily's servant. 

When the women go into Miss Emily's bedroom, they find the skeleton of a man that has been long dead.  They also find the toiletry kit of the man that has been etched with the initials "HB".  This confirms that the dead body is that of Homer Barron, Miss Emily's beau from long ago.  The townspeople had believed that Homer had left Miss Emily because he suddenly stopped being seen.  They had even believed that Emily was going to commit suicide, because she had purchased arsenic at the time of his disappearance.  However, this body tells us that Emily had used the arsenic on Homer, killing him and keeping his body in the house - which explains the smell from the house that the townspeople had been concerned about years before. 

Beside Homer on the bed is a strand of iron-gray hair - Miss Emily's hair.  She was so attached to Homer that not only did she kill him to prevent him from leaving, but she also lay in a bed with his dead body.

Creepy, huh?

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial