The outcome of “A Rose for Emily” seemed to shock many readers as well as the townspeople and family members that surrounded the famous Miss Emily Grierson inside the film adaptation of the story. Sure, keeping a dead lover’s body hostage and occasionally lying beside it for a good cuddle is far from normal, but the odd thought here is how did everyone not see this coming? Several times in this story it foreshadows directly to the theory of Miss Emily killing off Homer Baron and hiding him in her house somewhere. William Faulkner uses the way Emily acted towards her father’s death, when she bought the poison, Homer Baron being last seen at her house, and that lingering smell to foreshadow the fact that Miss Emily killed and hid Homer Baron’s body inside her house.
Now the director of the film adaptation, Lyndon Chubbuck, decided to take a totally different approach to the story than William Faulkner. Of course, we know that most films over dramatize stories and bring them to life with more personality. But given that Faulkner chooses to tell the story “in reverse”, allows him to completely leave out any details of shock or concern shown by the townspeople and family. In the film adaptation, Chubbuck decides to tell the story in chronological order and the shock and disbelief of the family who finds Homer’s dead body is very clear. The very fact that the film is in chronological order creates more suspense which is why the shock is so much more apparent in the film than in the story itself.
Miss Emily’s father was very strict about men who were interested in her. He turned away most of her suitors. “None of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily and such. Her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip” (319). Miss Emily was close to her father because he was the only family figure that she had in her life. But given Miss Emily’s peculiar relationship with her father it was strange when she acted the way she did when he passed away. When asked about her father’s death by townspeople Miss Emily simply replied with “her father was not dead” and did it with “no trace of grief on her face” (319). It’s like she was just trying to pretend that her father was not dead and that everything was normal. Miss Emily kept lying to everyone, including herself, for three whole days before the doctors and police had to force her to let them dispose of her father’s body properly. This is the same thing that she did with Homer’s body later on in the story. That is why it is so surprising that when the townspeople found Homer’s body they were so shocked. The townspeople knew that Miss Emily didn’t do well with her father’s death. What makes them think that she wouldn’t do it again?
When Miss Emily and Homer Baron were seen together, people assumed that they would be together for a very long time because he was the only man that she had been with because of her strict father. But townspeople were skeptical because they thought Miss Emily would never be with a Northerner and there were rumors of Homer liking men. No one knows why Miss Emily decided to kill Homer but a good guess would be that she was afraid that he would leave her just like her father. In an interview William Faulkner said that “Her father had kept her more or less locked up and then she had a lover who was about to quit her, she had to murder him” (904). Miss Emily, like so many other young girls, just want to find love, and be happy with their lover. But for Miss Emily, that would never happen. Whenever her father left her, she kept his body, so it makes sense that when Homer “wanted to leave”, Miss Emily wanted to preserve his body for as long as possible. “I want some poison. I want the best you have. I don’t care what kind. I want arsenic” (320). The fact that Miss Emily bought the strongest rat poison right after she was seen with Homer is very suspicious. Some of the townspeople thought she would use the poison to kill herself, but after Homer Barron completely disappeared and Miss Emily was still living, people should have at least suspected Miss Emily of doing something to him. The buying of the poison is a direct foreshadow to what Miss Emily uses to kill Homer later on in the story.
To tie right in with that theory of Miss Emily using the rat poison on Homer, it was oddly peculiar that Homer Barron was last seen entering Miss Emily’s house. When Homer first disappeared, Miss Emily’s family had arrived just for a short while. The townspeople assumed that Emily was just preparing the house for Homer because they still believed that they were married. When Homer came back, all was well, so they thought. “A neighbor saw the Negro man admit him at the kitchen door at dusk one evening. And that was the last we saw of Homer Barron” (321). The very last place Homer was seen alive was Miss Emily’s doorstep. There was no sighting of him ever leaving the house. If that did not cause suspicion around the neighborhood, the townspeople must have not been as nosy as the story perceives them. How could they have been so shocked when they found Homer’s dead corpse when he was last seen walking inside Miss Emily’s house? This is another clear example of how Faulkner uses foreshadowing throughout this story.
Lastly, the lingering smell that filled Miss Emily’s house and had all the neighbors complaining was strange. The police and judge argued about the cause saying that it was just a “snake or a rat that nigger of hers killed in the yard” (318). But to think that just a snake or rat could cast a smell so strong that several of the local men had to take upon their own actions to try and stop it is absurd. One small dead animal would not cause such a disgusting smell that took “a week or two” (319) to go away fully. It could only be something larger. Like a dead body??
It is just downright confusing to see that both the readers of the story and the family/townspeople that found the body did not put all these foreshadowing pieces together to get the bigger picture that is presented in the end. In the film adaptation, the scenes are chronologically set up to lead up to this big finale, allowing the foreshadowing to be even more prominent. William Faulkner clearly uses foreshadowing as a key element in his story, “A Rose for Emily”. That theory is proven by showing Miss Emily’s clear problem with her father’s death in the beginning of the story, her suspicious buying of the rat poison, the fact that Homer Barron was last seen arriving at her house, and that lingering smell that engulfed her house.
A Rose for Emily. Dir. Lyndon Chubbuck. Perf. Anjelica Huston, John Randolph, John Carradine. Pyramid Home Video, 1982. DVD.
Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” The Story and Its Writer. Ed. Ann Charters. Compact 9th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2014. 317-23. Print.
Faulkner, William. “The Meaning of ‘A Rose for Emily.’” The Story and Its Writer. Ed. Ann Charters. Compact 9th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2014. 903-904. Print.