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The Mysteries of William Faulkner In “A Rose for Emily”


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The Mysteries of William Faulkner In “A Rose for Emily”

William Faulkner is among the most widely acknowledged English literature writers. One of his works, “A Rose for Emily,” is considered the greatest he has ever published by critics and supporters alike. First published in 1930 in Forum, “A Rose for Emily” is a tale of an unmarried American woman living in the South. Emily, the story’s main character, attracts suspicion and concern of her townspeople when he father dies and she develops a love relationship with a Black Northern man. The short story invites numerous differential interpretations, drawing many analyses and commentaries. While each analysis and commentary takes a different shape, some people consider the mysteries in Faulkner’s work. It is widely accepted that “A Rose for Emily” is a mysterious piece because its author adopts a somewhat confusing plot, uses a challenging point of view in his narrations, and his main character is still mysterious in as many ways as it can be imagined. This analysis elaborates the standpoint that Faulkner writes mysteriously, using these three elements.

A Brief Summary of Faulkner’s “A Letter for Rose”

            “A Rose for Emily” contains five sections, each with different events. The narrator remembers the time of Miss. Emily’s funeral and the way the whole of her town attended it in her home in the first part. Notably, the event is strange, considering that the narrator points out that no outsider had entered the compound in over a decade. The narrator reveals that Emily’s house was the last remnant of a lost era’s grandeur. The narrator also reveals that the previous mayor, Colonel Sartoris, had suspended Miss. Emily’s tax obligations because Mr. Grierson, Emily’s father had bailed the town using a lot of money at one time before his demise. A new regime had taken over the town and officials had visited Emily’s home to persuade her to pay her taxes, which she had turned down and asked them to settle the matter with the Colonel even though he was long dead.

Faulkner then jumps a time thirty years before the events in the first section when Emily had turned down an official inquiry on the town leadership’s behalf when the town’s dwellers detect a stench coming from her premises in the second section. By then, Emily’s father had just died and a man most of the townspeople thought would marry her had additionally left her. Judge Stevens, the town mayor then, had decided that the people sprinkle lime around Emily’s house (his father’s house for this matter) following numerous complaints about the smell, subsiding it after a few weeks. The narrator also observes how the townspeople sympathized with Emily, recalling how her aunty had mysteriously grown mad. He further recounts how the townspeople had always thought that the Griersons held themselves with high esteem, evidenced by how Mr. Grierson had turned away many of his daughter’s suitors, leaving her single until her thirties. The narrator also reveals in this section that Emily had insisted that her father was not dead while women from her town who had gathered to condole with her. However, she had finally delivered the body for burial after three days of denial.

The book’s third section is a description of a long ailment that befalls Emily after this event. The narrator indicates that the town had contracted workers to pave the town’s sidewalks the summer after Mr. Grierson’s death, where Homer Barron, a Black northerner had won the tender with his company. Barron had soon grown popular and had been seen taking Miss. Emily on buggy rides, particularly on Sundays, an incidence that raised more pity towards her from the townspeople. The concern had been that Emily had discarded her family pride for a relationship with a man way below her class. A further involvement with Barron had gradually eroded Emily’s standing, forcing her to purchase arsenic, a strong poison, at a drug store without an accompanying explanation on how she planned to use it, choosing to label it, “For Rats.”

Section four of the novel dwells on the fears that the townspeople had developed that Emily would use the poison on herself. Much as their Sunday routine had not ceased, the narrator observes that a marriage had seemed increasingly unlikely. A faction of women in the town had insisted that the Baptist minister talk to Miss. Emily, which he had done but he had neither spoken of his experiences nor committed to go back. The narrator also indicates that the minister had chosen to write to Emily’s relations in Alabama who had come for an extended stay, a time when Barron had been missing from the town. Barron had entered the Grierson property one day after Emily’s relations had left but he had never been seen again. The narrator also observes that Emily had grown gray and plump because of holing herself in her house, keeping her doors shut for a long time except for her occasional appearance at the window. Only her servant had been seen moving in and out of the compound until the town had discovered Emily’s death aged seventy-four.

The last section narrates what happens after Emily’s demise, indicating that the townspeople attended her burial alongside her relations. The narrator also reveals that an upstairs door that had remained shut for forty years was broken open, where Barron’s body was discovered in an advanced state of decomposition and a strand of Emily’s grey hair on a pillow besides it. The room also contained items for a scheduled wedding event and a man’s suit.

The Plot as a Mystery

William Faulkner does not adopt a chronological plot in his “A Rose for Emily.” Readers are first introduced the situation of taxes and death, which the novelist careless less to elaborate about their relationship in the opening stages of the book. He moves the readers fast-paced from a funeral in which everyone attends to a mysterious story concerning taxes. The biggest question at this point becomes, “What is the relationship between these taxes and the funeral?” It further appears that taxes were not the only thing troubling Miss Emily because they are tame in comparison to what follows. Faulkner introduces his readers to many bizarre things concerning his main character, including the ideas that she had refused to accept her father’s death for three days and acquired a boyfriend in her thirties the summer after her father’s death. Other mysterious events are that Emily had constantly worried that her boyfriend would leave her, she purchased poison and kept it in her house, Barron disappeared, and a door in her house had been locked for forty years only for a decaying body to be found on a bed. There is critical information in this case to understand the plot but how the novelist jumbles up the events makes it altogether confusing.

In the same way, in complication, the townspeople’s conscience seems vibrant, making it useful to perceive the tale as the town’s confession. This perspective, however, complicates matters for the townspeople. Understandably, the town was cruel to Emily when she entered into her relationship with Barron. The intention was to keep her stuck to the southern ideals mapped out to her by her ancestors. However, it is discovered that she had broken loose of the chains following his fathers’ death but the town would not let her go. The town sends Emily’s cousins to her when they learn that they have failed to stop her affection with Barron. Finally, the story runs to an unexpected climax when the poison is delivered bearing a label, “For Rats.” Much as it appears jumbled up for the most part, it ascends to the climax somewhere in the middle, giving it a smooth symmetrical perspective.

Faulkner many have thought of Homer Barron as being a little of a rat, one that, for her nobility, Miss. Emily would have felt that she had all the powers and rights to exterminate. Still, Emily desired to hold tight to her ambition that she would develop normal life, affection, and family. The character has extreme reactions when she realizes that everyone—her cousins, the minister, townspeople, and even Barron—was bent on jeopardizing her plans. That is the reason, for readers, the story’s apex is summarized in image of the crossbones and the skull contained on the poison package bearing the warning, “For Rats.” Other elements of the plot, including a locked door for forty years with a decomposing body and a grey strand of hair on a pillow with some folds on it, are also mysteriously included.

The Point of View as a Mystery

Faulkner uses a rare first-person point of view throughout the entire novel to an effective effect. However, his choice does not leave readers without concerns, creating an additional mystery in his style of writing. First person narration is powerfully used to observe beyond an author’s view but Faulkner approach is worthy studying. The most critical aspect here concerns the narrator’s omniscience; something Faulkner does not care explaining to his readers. Someone reading the novel is left to wonder whether this narrator was Emily’s accomplice, relation, or a townsperson. There are both strengths and weaknesses to these guesses. For instance, if we peak the narrator to be Emily’s accomplice, then we can be in a position to explain how Faulkner got stories about things happening inside the Grierson’s walls—the novelist indicates that a servant had been seen in and out of the home. This approach helps understand how Faulkner may have learned that Emily was giving occasional fine-china painting lessons at some point in her life and how the poison was delivered. However, the perspective does not sufficiently explain how the accomplice was around Emily throughout her life to have witnessed everything, including the purchasing of the poison but missed to know of Homer’s death for decades. Again, it is unlikely that the narrator was an accomplice of Emily’s since Faulkner writes that he (the narrator) observed a servant’s movements between the house and the community.

Thinking of the narrator as Emily’s relative is perhaps the weakest approach to understanding Faulkner’s story. The advantage to this side is that it helps understand Emily’s familial links, including his father and the immediate family. Nonetheless, this is not a strong guess because readers consistently learn that Emily did not live with any relatives apart from his dead father. Lastly, a townsperson may have keenly observed and narrated the accounts at Faulkner’s benefit but they would never be in a strong position to learn of the things happening insider the Grierson’s fence. Therefore, the narrator in this case is critically mysterious.

Characterization as a Mystery

Faulkner’s Emily Grierson is a secretive character, an aspect that makes her mysterious in many ways. The narrator recounts that Miss. Emily’s burial was the only incident when the townspeople were allowed to enter her compound. Except for rare visits by the town’s leadership for tax issues, the minister for counselling reasons, and her cousins for companionship, the narrator declines to accept that Emily ever admitted anyone to her compound willfully. The phenomenon makes Emily a mysterious character, leaving readers with curiosity about her intentions and character. For instance, it is not easy to determine why Emily chose to keep both Homer Barron and her father’s bodies after death and denied that the latter had not actually died. The puzzle of what killed Barron is also the readers’ to solve, now that they learn that she had kept a door upstairs locked for forty years. Now, the greatest question concerns Emily’s character compared to public perception.


William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” is a short but somewhat mysterious. The novel documents Emily’s life, including her familial and romantic relations. As discussed, the book does not follow a chronological plot, jumbling events beginning with Emily’s funeral and ending with the same. The in-between sections describe how Emily lived as she did, helping readers to understand the meanings of the events that confront them at the start of the story. Furthermore, Faulkner’s choice of a first person narration adds to his work’s mystery because they are omniscient without measure. Lastly, his characterization of Emily further makes the writing mysterious because she is always secretive.

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