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Guide

Some the questions submitted to this discussion forum over the years really are preliminary questions that should accompany a first reading of "A Rose for Emily" rather than the discussion or essay questions that demand more thoughtful reading based on some time assembling data.  

Here, then, are questions that might constitute a study guide for a first reading of the story.

  1. Can you establish a clear chronology for all the events in Emily's life in
    the order in which they occurred? How is the issue of chronology related to the larger thematic design of the story? 

    Jeanie (2003) offers some ideas on time: "It amazed me to re-read and study the timeline. This is definitely not a story you can take on face value.

    "You find that Homer disappeared before the purchase of the arsenic. That Miss Emily was only 19-25 when her father died, Homer disappeared when about 20-27, smell came at about 21-27, 30+ when arsenic purchased, 40 when giving painting lessons, 41-47 when Colonel Sartoris died, 51-57 when the deputation arrived, 74 when she died.

    "Keep in mind, nowhere in the story does it actually state that Homer was the corpse that was found or give any identity. Neither does it state that the corpse was a murder victim.

    =========================

    Jean (1999) sees the mixed chronology as gaining sympathy for Emily: "I believe the reason for the lack of chronological continuity had a distinct purpose (as did every word and innuendo in Faulkner's story). The most obvious reason was to avoid giving anything away too early in the plot, thus losing the point of the story. Secondly, Faulkner wanted the reader to get the full perspective of the people of Jefferson. That is also why he had the narrator as one of the witnessing townsfolk. By taking you down one road at a time, but not necessarily in sequential order, Faulkner allowed you to have only the pieces of the puzzle he wanted you to see, when he wanted you to see them, thus offering the picture of how perceptions and situations were created by circumstance. This way he kept you from imposing judgment. Instead he was able to arouse empathy and draw you into the plot."

  2. Make your best guess about the year of the earliest event in the story and the year of the latest event in the story?  (Hint: The span of years in the story occurs during or after the American Civil War [some of the Civil War vets "remember" dancing with Emily--How likely is that, given her father's behavior?] and before World War II.)
  3. What things change in Jefferson, Mississippi, during the story, and what things do not change?  More important, how is the Old South (antebellum--before the Civil War) compared to the New South, especially after Reconstruction, 1877-1930's in this story?
  4. How does Faulkner's use of time (telling a non-chronological narrative) create sympathy for Miss Emily?
  5. In what ways does the town control Emily (and vice versa)?  [Here's a related "puzzle" from Keely (2004) about one of those attempts at control: "When the women of the town saw 'Poor Emily' riding with Homer in the yellow buggy, why did they force the BAPTIST minister to call on Emily, when her family was Episcopal?"  Confirm the religion of Emily's family; then try to answer this question.]
  6. How do the narrator and town view Miss Emily? What passages represented more than one view of her? Explain the significance of up to 5 such passages?
  7. Consider the ideas of isolation and loneliness to see if you can make a theme statement about either of those topics.
  8. To what extent did the traditional role of a female in the South lead to Emily's insanity? How did her not fitting the stereotypical role contribute to her need to keep Homer around, even if it meant killing him?
  9. What is the effect of the final paragraph of the story? How does it contribute to your understanding of Emily? Why is it important that we get this information last rather than at beginning of the story?
  10. What does the rose symbolize?  It's mentioned in the title but not in the story.  (Tina, 2004)
  11. Questions 1 - 8 all relate to setting in some way.  So (Alan, 2004) how would the story be different in a different time or place? In other words, how does the setting make Emily what she is?

    Other Questions Contributed to the Forum
  12. Any ideas on the significance of the portraits in the story "A Rose for Emily"? Please share any ideas and relevant site/links. (Crystal 2003)
  13. What is the community's reaction toward the death of Ms. Emily's father? What does it say about the communities attitude towards Emily and her father?

    What excuse does the narrator give for Emily's bizarre behavior in reference to her fathers funeral arrangement.

    How is this an element of foreshadowing? (Norma 2003)

  14. Does anyone have any real logical thought as to Emily being African American?  My thought is why did her father not let her outside the house? Maybe he himself had a little thing w/ a black woman had Ms. Emily, and that's why Toby hung around all the time. He was ashamed of her and never wanted her seen.  [How would being, say, 1/8 African American increase or decrease the ironies of the story?]

  15. What details foreshadow the conclusion of "A Rose for Emily"? (Amp 2003)

  16. Explain fully the narrator's comment that Miss Emily "vanquished them {the Alderman}, horse and foot...". (start of Part II) ("Chachi," 1999)

    Jason (2001) answered: "'Horse and foot' is an expression to mean 'totally.'  It comes from a military victory of the cavalry and infantry."  Elizabeth (2001) answers further: "Emily manages to vaquish the "new generation" several times. They try to collect taxes, they try to uncover the smell, they try to stop her love affair, and they do not succeed.  Emily is the Victor...she withdraws into her own life and is in control. Only one thing can beat Emily and pull her from her from her comfortable world of the past: death."
     

  17. How does "A Rose for Emily" relate to "Gothic Fiction"?

    C. David Fixman responds: "Like writings from the Romantic movement the story emphasizes the strange, bizarre and unusual, and most of all the unexpected (the conclusion, in this case). Like the tales of Edgar Allen Poe, it was like a detective story that dealt with death, darkness, a corpse, and an unimaginable experience that startled the reader. The mood of a gothic story is dark and morbid. There are usually old decaying castles or similar environments. It this case it was Emily's large old Southern style house that was dark, decaying, and dusty. In many of Poe's writings from the Romantic period the emphasis was on the final effect and emotion produced by the story. I think this can definitely be said of 'A Rose for Emily.'"

  18. Anna (2001) suggests two different kinds of climax for the plot structure of the story.  Do you agree with both in this statement: "Every story has a climax or a turning point. In this short story it is not so obvious as it is told in retrospective. I have the feeling that for the reader the turning point is at the end of the story when the gray hair discloses the full extent of Emily's insanity. However, there also seems to be a hidden climax when Emily kills her lover."

  19. Dave (2001) was in a class tasked with designing a new ending.  What would yours be?  Dave offered his idea: "I am taking a class assigned to come up with a new ending - a Chapter 6, if you will. While I haven't yet come up with the particulars, I do know that in my version the townsfolk will discover the UNUSED box of arsenic! Somehow I will attempt to vindicate the tragic character of Emily."

  20. How is Emily like her decaying house, which becomes "an eyesore among eyesores" when an auto salvage yard is put next to it?

  21. Analyze Faulkner's writing style in this story (or is that the narrator's style?), quoting and analyzing several sentences, including one of the shortest and one of the longest that are outside of dialog.