Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 671
The Town Ladies: A contingent of women from the town are the first to arrive at Miss Emily’s following her death, and they are the last to see Tobe.
When news of Miss Emily’s death spreads, a group of ladies from the town arrives at Miss Emily’s door and is briefly greeted by Tobe, who lets them in and immediately proceeds to walk out the back door, never to be seen again. A funeral is held two days later, with several of the men wearing their newly brushed Confederate uniforms.
After Miss Emily was placed “decently in the ground,” a room above the stairs at Miss Emily’s, which has not been opened for years, is forced open. An “acrid pall as of the tomb” seemed to lie on everything in the room, including “upon the delicate array of crystal and the man’s toilet things backed with tarnished silver, silver so tarnished that the monogram was obscured,” as well as upon a man’s suit of clothes.
And on the bed was “the man himself,” with a “profound and fleshless grin.” Although never mentioned by name, the fleshless skeleton, in the position of an endless embrace, is that of Homer Barron. Next to his head is a second pillow, with the “indentation of another head,” and on it is a “long strand of iron-gray hair.”
Until the very day of Miss Emily’s death, despite the many generations that have come and gone in the town, the town members continue to act decorously with respect to the rites of death. At Miss Emily’s death, just as they had done at her father’s, the town’s “ladies” call on the house. Tobe’s immediate departure, never to be “seen again,” offers yet another ominous hint of things yet to transpire.
The town’s preoccupation/obsession with Miss Emily is further evidenced by the fact that the town had always known that “there was a room in that region above the stairs [in Miss Emily’s house] which no one had seen in forty years.…” What other person, or what other house, in the town had ever received this much attention?
The conclusion to “A Rose for Emily” provides the story with the gothic-like twist that has been hinted at since the early stages of the story. With the conclusion, all the questions that the town had ever had over the years have been answered. What had happened to the man’s toiletry set and suit? What ever happened to Homer Barron? What was the “dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse” Miss Emily doing on her own all those years?
With the ending, Faulkner also forces the reader to reexamine the narration from the very beginning for the continual hints of Barron’s fate that he offers. For example, Faulkner describes Miss Emily by her “skeleton” in Section I; he refers to “the smell” in Section II; in Section III, the arsenic appears; and in Section IV, the mention of “the last we saw of Homer Barron” is juxtaposed with the narrator’s recollection of the sprinkling of the lime. Each of these moments in the story gain greater relevancy with the ending.
There is little about “A Rose for Emily” that is not calculated; Faulkner has created a story replete with all the hints a literary detective would need that ultimately points to the inevitable conclusion to which the story leads—the death of Homer Barron at the hands of Miss Emily. But the real story lies not in the facts of the death; the true literary detective work comes with respect to uncovering the motives behind Miss Emily’s actions. Was Miss Emily merely crazy? Does Faulkner offer the reader hints of abuse at the hands of her father that could explain her actions? Or are there other reasons for these obviously perverse actions? The plethora of possible answers to those questions give “A Rose for Emily” its strength and beauty.
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