The plotline of standard narratives would most aptly be diagramed as a triangle, with the rising action on one side, the falling action on the other side, and the climax marking the angle at the apex. The diagram of the plotline of William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," however, would look like a simple line with a positive slope. The story's chronology is abandoned in favor of a simpler and more effective geometry. Faulkner discards the method of unfolding events in the order of their occurrence. Instead, he raises tension in the reader and creates a climate of curiosity through revealing events in ascending order of intrigue.
The beginning of Faulkner's story is the end for Miss Emily. Faulkner presents images of the townspeople dutifully attending the funeral of this fallen fixture. As soon as the reader becomes acclimated to this setting, however, Faulkner subtly takes the reader back in time: "Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town, dating from that day in 1894 when Colonel Satoris, the mayor, [. . .] remitted her taxes" (Faulkner 75). Faulkner inserts exposition into the middle of what was a section of falling action. Rather than returning the reader to the scene of Miss Emily's funeral, Faulkner trudges forward from 1894, bringing the reader up to date on the issue of Miss Emily's taxes.
While explaining the exemption from taxes in Jefferson that Miss Emily enjoyed, Faulkner craftily incorporates the fact that Miss Emily "ceased giving china-painting lessons eight or ten years earlier" (76). Miss Emily is now dead, having refused to pay her taxes and having retired from her china-painting t...
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...horrifying truth of Miss Emily's murder of Homer Barron for the final section of the story, and introducing Emily's necrophilia in the story's closing sentence, speaks volumes about Faulkner's abilities in his craft. He has successfully arranged the events of a disturbed woman's life to present them in order of interest and excitement rather than in traditional chronological order. This use of plot enables Faulkner to write a great ghost story, because a ghost story needs to end on this kind of high note. Faulkner creates a plot line that resembles the upper line of a crescendo, a graph of emotional tension that starts at the lowest of points and travels steadily upward to the highest of human horrors.
Faulkner, William. "A Rose for Emily." The Bedford Introduction to Literature.
Comp. Michael Meyer. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2002. 75-81.
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