What are the major events in "A Rose for Emily"?

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The story of "A Rose for Emily" takes place in the fictional town of Jefferson, Mississippi, in the years immediately following World War I. The time frame is from shortly before to shortly after the death of Miss Emily Grierson. The story begins with a brief description of her funeral. There is then a flashback that leads up to Miss Emily's murder. Following this, we learn about Colonel Sartoris' confrontation with Miss Emily over her tax payments and her father's funeral. Then there is another flashback concerning Homer Barron, which leads up to his disappearance. Then there is another flashback in which we learn about Miss Emily'

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The list of major events in Faulkner’s short story “A Rose for Emily” includes several deaths, and tense interactions between an isolated but acknowledged community member and the rest of the community, including its leaders. The story begins with the death of the title character, and then circles back to the events leading up to her death and the subsequent discoveries it brings.

The events of the story seem to come in parallels of events in Emily’s personal life, and events in the relationship between Emily and the town. When Emily’s father passes away, Emily refuses to admit he is dead and will not let the body be removed for burial for several days, leading the town to nearly use force to address the matter. After Emily’s father’s death, the mayor remits her taxes, which sharply illuminates the drastic change in Emily’s life from wealth and high standing in the town, while also protecting Emily from having to deal with this change.

When she has recovered from her loss, Emily is seen going out with a potential suitor, Homer Barron, which eventually leads to much disapproving gossip from the town, and the minister is pressured to intervene. During this time, Emily purchases poison from a very reluctant druggist, an event that is not proven to be major until the very end of the story. After the minister’s intervention, Emily’s cousins visit, and Emily purchases some men’s clothing and a toilet set, leading the town to believe Emily and Homer soon would be married. Instead, Emily’s sweetheart Homer disappears, and the townspeople complain about a terrible odor coming from her home. Rather than confront her about it, the town leaders secretly sprinkle lime on her property to dispel the smell. In later years, when a younger generation is in charge of the town, the mayor, aldermen and sheriff attempt to reinstate her taxes, and she refuses to engage with them, repeatedly insisting that she has no taxes. The community leaders acquiesce and leave her alone. Finally, Miss Emily dies, precipitating the discovery of the most major event in the story: Emily poisoned Homer Barron, all those years ago, kept his corpse in a locked room, and apparently slept next to it.

An interesting aspect of these major events is that some of them are seeming non-events, or attempts by Miss Emily to stall time and ignore or prevent the inevitable losses and changes that life brings to everyone. The interactions with the town also sometimes seem uneventful, as the townspeople consistently choose to avoid conflict. However, these quiet events where opportunity is lost can be major, as when the druggist allows Emily to purchase poison, despite her refusal to obey the law and explain why she needed it. The story illuminates the intense drama of even quiet small-town life, despite, and sometimes because of, all attempts to ignore or avoid it. For resources on the eNotes site that can give you more helpful information about the story and its major events, click on the reference link below.

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In Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," the following events occur:

  • 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. 

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What is the order of events in "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner?

William Faulkner makes a deliberate choice to begin this story at the end in order to build and maintain suspense. It is up to the reader to unpick what is going on and establish what the true order of events might be. Essentially, however, it goes something like this:

Emily Grierson lives with her father, who thinks no man is good enough for her.

Emily's father dies. She at first refuses to let anyone dispose of the body. For a while, after this period, she ventures out very little, and employs a "Negro man" to keep her house for her. A dispensation is granted for Emily, on the death of her father, saying she need no longer pay taxes.

Emily is sick for a while. Then, about two years after Emily's father dies, she cuts her hair short and reappears. A construction company arrives with Homer Barron as foreman. Emily begins to be seen with Homer Barron, and it is thought that she might marry him.

Emily goes to the druggist to buy some poison. Emily says it is for rats and people think she is going to kill herself with it. However, she doesn't—instead, she begins to order items for Homer, including clothes and a toilet set.

Then Homer Barron disappears.

A strange smell is observed coming from Emily's house. Rather than challenging Emily about it, some men cross Emily's lawn and put down lime to get rid of the smell.

Emily hides herself away and is little seen for six or seven years, when she begins to give lessons in china painting.

The city authorities come to Miss Emily to tell her she needs to pay taxes. Emily sends them away.

Emily dies, and the old black servant lets the people into the house. The body of Homer Barron is then found in a bed in her home.

We can infer, then, that Emily kills Homer before the smell is detected.

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What is the order of events in "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner?

One of the things that makes William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” intriguing and memorable is its enigmatic plot. Events are not related in linear order; rather, the story travels back and forth in time. The reader is yanked in and out of spaces and across years, making Emily’s crime hard to immediately discern.

While the plot can be a fun puzzle, it can also be frustratingly difficult to follow at times. Here is a list of what occurs in the story in chronological order:

  1. Emily’s father dies
  2. Colonel Sartoris pays Emily’s taxes
  3. Colonel Sartoris dies
  4. Homer comes to town
  5. Emily purchases arsenic
  6. Homer goes missing
  7. A smell emerges and becomes stronger
  8. Aldermen try to collect taxes from Emily
  9. Emily dies and Homer's body is discovered
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What is the chronological order of events in "A Rose for Emily"?

To put Emily Grierson's life and death into a timeline from the information in the story, the reader must reconstruct events from hints given in the various sections of the story--which are not chronological. 

As a young woman, Emily lived with her father, and he scared away all potential suitors. Emily had out-of-town relatives, and one, a great-aunt, went crazy. Emily's father had a falling out with his family before he died. After his death, Emily refused to admit he had died, and it took three days for townspeople to convince her. No extended family came to the funeral. Emily was reclusive for a long time--months--after her father's death. Colonel Sartoris, the mayor, forgave Emily's taxes because she had no inheritance other than the house.  

About a year after her father's death, Homer Barron, a Northerner, began courting Emily. The town believed her unchaperoned affair with Homer was a scandal, and the Baptist minister called on her, but wouldn't say what happened. Female cousins came to stay with Emily. She purchased a men's toilet set, engraved with the initials H.B., and arsenic. The townspeople assumed Emily and Homer were getting married or had gotten married. Homer Barron left town, and the people believed he went home to prepare to move Emily to the North with him. The cousins went back to Alabama, and Homer Barron returned. He was seen entering Miss Emily's home. But he was never seen leaving. Shortly after, there was a horrible smell on the property and the aldermen came at night to spread lime around the home. This is the point at which Emily murdered Homer and slept with his corpse, but that is not revealed until the end of the story.

After that, Emily became reclusive. She wasn't seen at all for six months, and seldom for about eight years. Then, when she was about 40, she started giving china painting lessons for about six or seven years. After that, she was rarely seen and never went out. Colonel Sartoris had died, and the new generation of aldermen tried to collect taxes from Emily, to no avail. She died when she was about 72 years old. Emily's black servant who had lived with her since the death of her father walked out the day she died without saying anything to anyone. Her two cousins came from Alabama for the funeral. After the funeral, the townspeople broke down the door of Emily's upstairs bedroom and found the skeleton of Homer Barron in her bed.

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What is the chronological order of events in "A Rose for Emily"?

This question is harder to answer than one might think. Faulkner, in telling his story out of order, doesn't make it easy; it takes a very close reading of the novel in order to figure out the real order of major events. Faulkner slips in little clues here and there like "it was ten years later" or "no one saw Miss Emily for six months"; using those clues, you can piece it together. In a nutshell, here are some of the major events, in order of actual occurrence: 1. Her father dies; people finally convince her to give up the body. 2. Homer Barron arrives in town; people see her riding around in her carriage with him. 3. The aunts come, Emily buys toiletries with Homer's initials, AND arsenic. 4. The aunts leave, and Homer returns after being gone for 3 days, only to disappear forever. 5. The smell; lime is applied. 6. She isn't seen for a while; she gives painting lessons occasionally. 7. The aldermen visit about taxes, unsuccessfully. 8. Emily dies. I hope that helps, and if there are any details I missed, hopefully you can tell where to fit them in.
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What is the chronological order of events in the story "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner?

"A Rose for Emily”--One of the interesting aspects of this clever, macabre story is its fractured time frame.  William Faulkner’s story requires looking at each section of the story to establish the chronological order.  Unlike other authors, Faulkner sets the beginning of the story with the funeral of the main character, Miss Emily Grierson, the town recluse/celebrity.

Only a few specific dates are mentioned in the story, but a close reading makes it possible to assign certain sequential events. We know, for example, that Colonel Sartoris remits Miss Emily's taxes in 1894, and that he has been dead for at least ten years when she confronts the new aldermen. Likewise, we know that she dies at the age of 74. When she was forty, she gave China painting lessons to the children. From these clues, the reader can set a framework for the story.

What  happened and when?

Section 11

  • Miss Emily’s father dies.
  • Her fiancé deserts her.

Section III

  • Homer Barron comes to town.
  • He squires Miss Emily around  town in a buggy.

Section IV

  •  Rumors fly about Miss Emily and Homer and them acting disgracefully.
  • The Baptist Minister comes to talk to Miss Emily.
  • The cousins come to save her from Homer.
  • She buys a man's silver toilet set — a mirror, brush, and comb — and men's clothing.
  • Miss Emily buys arsenic.
  • Homer Barron disappears.

Section II

  • The neighbors complain of a smell.
  • The town men place lime around Miss Emily’s house to stop the odor.

Section IV

  • Miss Emily does not go out of the house anymore.
  • Miss Emily dies at the age of 74.

Section I

  • The cousins have Emily’s funeral two days after she dies.

 Section V

  • The town's people come to snoop around in Miss Emily’s house after her funeral.
  • The black servant lets the people in and disappears out the back door.
  • The men break down the door and discover a skeleton dressed in a nightshirt lying in the bed.
  • One grey hair is found on the pillow.

What an intriguing story to read and read again so that the reader can be sure that he has not missed any of Faulkner's hints at the surprise ending of the story. 




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What are the different timelines of the life of the Emily in "A Rose for Emily"?

1. Part 1 of the story begins with Miss Emily's death.  Faulkner writes,

"When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral . . ."

After a description of the place Miss Emily held in the town (she represents tradition) and a listing of her notable ancestors, the author begins to go back in time to right before Miss Emily died.  He states that at this point, she already shut herself up in the house and ceased to give china-painting lessons.

2. After the town's leaders visit the elderly Emily in regards to her taxes, Faulkner begins Part 2 by flashing back 30 years earlier (two years after Emily's father died).  At this point in the story, the town is concerned about the smell emanating from Emily's house.  After this incident, Faulkner does continue going back in time to Emily's reaction to her father's death.  In this section overall, Miss Emily's younger years are presented, and Faulkner even describes a very young Emily whose father drove away suitors.

3.  In Part 3, Miss Emily is still a younger woman because this is when she meets Homer Barron and develops a keen interest in him.

4.  In Part 4, Faulkner continues with Emily's "dying" relationship with Homer and brings the story back to its beginning time--Miss Emily's death.  At the end of Part 4, the narrator states,

"Daily, monthly, yearly we watched the Negro grow grayer and more stooped, going in and out [of Miss Emily's house]."

Thus, altogether, you could list at least 3 different timelines in Miss Emily's life from the story (even though Faulkner does not address them chronologically).

1. Miss Emily as a young girl of courting age (this is simply a reference made by the author to Miss Emily's father driving off suitors).

2. Miss Emily as a fatherless younger woman (perhaps in her 30s or 40s) who becomes sick after her father's death and then becomes interested in Homer Barron.

3. Miss Emily as an elderly recluse right before her death.

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Can you please put the events in "A Rose for Emily" in chronological order?

This is a great assignment that I have also given my classes. It's especially tough because of the flashbacks and constant shifts in time sequence.


  1. Emily's father dies.
  2. The Grierson taxes are remitted.
  3. Homer Barron comes to town.
  4. Homer and Emily become a couple.
  5. Homer disappears--the first time.
  6. Emily's relatives arrive to discuss her relationship with Homer.
  7. Emily's relative leave; Homer returns.
  8. Emily buys rat poison.
  9. Homer disappears again.
  10. "The Smell" emerges.
  11. Men from the town spread lime around her house.
  12. Emily gives china-painting lessons.
  13. Members from the Board of Alderman try to serve Emily a tax notice.
  14. Miss Emily dies.
  15. Tobe disappears.
  16. Miss Emily's funeral.
  17. The upstairs bedroom is entered, and the body on the bed--and the strand of hair on the pillow--are found.
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Analyze William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" in chronological order.

Reassembling William Faulkner's short story, "A Rose for Emily," is no easy task since it is told in a manner that includes multiple shifts in time. Chronologically, we first hear of Emily in her 20s, "a slender figure" pictured with her father in a photograph. Emily's father died while she was in her 30s, and she refused to allow the body to be removed from the house for three days. "She was sick for a long time" after that, and when she next appeared her hair had been cut short. She met Homer Barron soon after. Their romance was a short one. Some of Emily's relatives visited to discuss her relationship with this Yankee working man. After the relatives left, Homer reappeared, but soon he was gone--but not before Emily had made an unusual purchase of rat poison. Not long after, a smell was noticed about the Grierson house, and some townspeople soon spread lime around the outer fringes of the home to eradicate the smell. Soon, it, too, was gone.

It was a long time before Emily was seen again, and her hair was turning gray. She gave china painting lessons for "six or seven years, when she was about forty." Soon after, she was greeted by a delegation to inquire about her taxes, which she refused to pay. After the children stopped coming for the painting lessons, Emily was rarely visible. Only her manservant, Tobe, was seen, except for an occasional glimpse of her sitting in a downstairs chair. She died at the age of 74.

Following her death, Tobe disappeared. The funeral was held "on the second day" afterward and was attended by several of her cousins and men in Confederate uniforms. After Emily "was decently in the ground," a group of men arrived to inspect the old house. They found the upstairs bedroom locked. When they broke the door down, they found the skeletal remains of a man in the bed with a yellowed pillow beside his skull: It had the indentation of a head and on it lay a single iron-gray hair.  

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