Structural analysis of A Rose for Emily, by William Faulkner
Mehdi Hassanian esfahani
Literary Theory (BBL5201)
A Rose for Emily, by William Faulkner is a short story in five parts. It is strongly
structured through contrasts, whether in the narration (which depicts every single
scene for us) or in the story (which consists of oppositions of what we expect to
happen). This contrast helps us from the beginning, to clearly differ between dark and
bright colors, powerful and pitiful figures, and even important and unimportant voices.
It would also help in characterization, as Emily’s identity is in a part dependent on what
she is not (regarding the other people in society) and vice versa.
In this novel, the order of events is logical. In the unfolded plot summary, Emily
Grierson, the protagonist, bears a miserable life with her father. Losing her chances of
marriage (or her future life) is followed by the lost of her father (her past). She has
nowhere and no one to connect with, and society ignores her. Losing her social role, she
becomes dehumanized. She is left alone, when she is much in need of someone, at least a
friend. Here comes a chance of friendship with a man form the lower class, but a lover at
least, who seems to be gay in the eyes of other people, but acts promising toward Emily.
He is good-looking, a “big, dark, ready man, with a big voice and eyes lighter than his
face”. She shouldn’t think of him seriously, but she does. When he wants to leave, Emily
has nothing else to lose. She lives an eccentric life; kills the lover and lives with his
corpse until she dies.
This careful series of events, following each other, prepares us to the discovery of
killing and her eccentric life. But it is not narrated chronologically, in order to keep the
suspense and increase the tension about the ending; murder, and the gray hair near the
Surprisingly, death of the protagonist, which may be the climax in another story,
is presented first. The story is narrated from the perspective of people around Emily;
the city, and older people of the city. That is why her death is not important; it is not the
climax either. They respect her, or bear her as a duty, and are separated from her life.
The point of view never tries to understand Emily, but is intrusive about her strange life,
her relations and her diversities. People act as passive strangers, looking just to amuse
themselves, or find a subject to gossip about.
A Rose for Emily is full in narration, and the duration of events is about a day,
covering her death, funeral, and people’s visit to the house. But the narrative constantly
goes back in the time and narrates what they, people in the city, remember of the past; it
is through these flashbacks and memories that we can get the entire sad story of Emily.
Time stretches about 10 years to cover this phase of Emily’s life. It jumps upon
traumatic events of her life.
Perspective is cold, and objective. It never interferes in the events or has
sympathy toward the protagonist. If there is a respect, it is due the social duty or
There is almost no frequency of events in this short story, but there is an
emphasis on the behaviors to show in many ways that she is apart from society. She is
stubborn to be apart from the society, which was never helpful or never tried to
understand her. She is an eyesore; they do not truly like her, neither does she. There is
also emphasis on the marriage, to present Emily as a frustrated spinster in a traditional
society; a key to make the ending acceptable.
There is not a variety of voices, as well. Despite some minor conversations and
quotes, it is the society, a person among “others” that narrates objectively what happens
and what has happened. This brings about a distance between the story and the
narration, as the person(s) view is limited to their knowledge and their understanding,
and may be even different form the story.