William Cuthbert Faulkner was an accomplished novelist, poet, screenwriter from Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner’s development as an artist was largely influenced by his family, in particular, by his mother, grandmother, and the African American nanny who cared for him from infancy. The women were voracious readers as well as painters and photographers and shaped Faulkner’s taste in visual language. Between the 1920s and the late 1930s, Faulkner wrote 13 novels and many short stories. Later, his body of literary work earned him the prestigious Nobel Prize in literature.
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A Rose for Emily is a 1930 short story by American author William Faulkner. Set in the fictional town of Jefferson, Mississippi, A Rose for Emily was the first Faulkner story published in a magazine. The story’s plot follows the life and death of Emily Grierson, an elderly woman from the former antebellum Southern aristocracy. Probably, the most surprising element of the story is its brutal and at the same time, disheartening ending.
After Emily’s death, the town’s residents discover that she had been sleeping with the decomposing corpse of her life partner. It does not seem like Faulkner wrote such a finale only for the shock value of it. Emily’s decision to keep the dead body shows her denial of what has happened: first the death of her father and then of her lover. Another element that stands out is Faulkner’s masterful use of foreshadowing. For instance, he embeds a detail about Emily keeping her father’s corpse for three days. Aside from that, Faulkner describes Miss Emily as if she were already dead herself: “bloated, like a body, long submerged in motionless water (Skei and Faulkner 102).” Overall, A Rose for Emily possesses all the signature characteristics of Faulkner’s writing style: its experimentality, close attention to cadence, and love for grotesque.
Skei, Hans H., and William Faulkner. Reading Faulkner’s Best Short Stories. University of South Carolina Press, 1999.