Plot Essay, Research Paper
Michael Palomo Palomo 1
February 28, 2000
The Components of The Plot
In William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” there are numerous aspects of the plot that can be explored. The use of conflict, foreshadowing, and flashbacks throughout the story form the plot along with its characters. The plot’s stages can be traced throughout the story. The start and end of the exposition, climax, and resolution can be identified. There is also a protagonist and a few antagonists in this story. The story is based on the life of a southern woman and the outcome of probably her one and only relationship with a man. I will in the following paragraphs illustrate the use of the previously mentioned tools in the story.
The story opens with the death of Miss Emily Grierson, the subject of the story. The fact that the story begins in medias res or in the midst of the story is an example of manipulation of the chronological order of the story (Kirszner and Mandell 65). This tool used by authors enhances the way a story is told. Another form of manipulating the order of when events are exposed is through the use of flashbacks. Faulkner relies on this to describe the events leading up to Emily’s death. Throughout the story the narrator goes back to different events to introduce characters such as her father, her Negro servant, Homer Barron, and the Board of Aldermen. An example of this would be when the narrator states, “We did not even know she was sick; we had long since given up on getting any information from the Negro.” (86) Within these flashbacks, the author inserts examples of foreshadowing. When an author uses foreshadowing they are trying to give the reader an insight to the events about to unfold later on in the story (68).
One example of this would be when the aldermen go to visit Emily to serve her with a notice of
the taxes she owes. The author writes, “So she vanquished them, horse and foot, just as she had vanquished their fathers thirty years before about the smell.” ( 82) This statement was an example of foreshadowing in that it evoked the reader to ask him/herself “what smell?”. The smell would be the rotting corpse of her dead lover Homer Barron, which was revealed at the end of the story. The cause of his death was also foreshadowed in the text. Emily had gone to the drugstore and asked for arsenic. When the druggist informed her that by law he was obligated to ask her the purpose for the arsenic, she looked at him “eye to eye, until he looked away and got the arsenic and wrapped it up.” (84) The use of flash backs and foreshadowing by the author help him establish the storyline and introduce the conflicts that the protagonist must face.
The conflicts that Emily had with some of the characters and herself shaped her in the eyes of the reader. Emily was a woman that had been raised around the time of the Civil War in a prominent family. This fact kept her from having a normal life. Her father never felt any man was worthy of courting her. After he died, she searched for that happiness she felt she deserved, but always maintained the noblesse oblige whenever in public. The denial she exhibited at her father’s passing was the same denial she felt when she realized that Homer could one day leave her, too. The culmination of her father’s death and no big inheritance made her feel as if though her life was spinning out of control. She could not bear the thought of being without Homer and alone with nothing. This is why she killed him and still slept by him all those years. His death created a conflict with her moral character, which is why she became a recluse.
Aside from this struggle, Emily had now also become an old lady surrounded by a new generation of towns
people and leaders. She had become kind of a burden to the town because of Colonel Sartoris’ promise to void her from paying taxes. The text alludes to this when it states, “When the next generation, with its more modern ideas, became mayors and alderman, this arrangement created some little dissatisfaction.” (81) The new generation saw Emily as a reminder of the older ways of life in that town. All the conflicts that Miss Emily Grierson faced were what established her character in the story.
Emily is seen as the protagonist of the story. She is the one that battles with her father’s ruling hand and his death, her own conscience about killing Homer, and the town’s people constant scrutiny. All these forces are some the story’s antagonists. They are the opposing forces that Emily must deal with before her death. Examining the role that her father played in her life, no statement in the story leaves a stronger impression than the one at the bottom of page 82. The narrator says, “None of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily…a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horse whip…” (82). The death of her father and the meager inheritance left her feeling helpless; without guidance or protection. This lead to the interest in Homer Barron. She needed him to be her security. In which case, she kept him there forever. The fact that she committed a crime like this must have thrown her conscience into a maelstrom of guilt, yet it also brought a perverse security from the outside world. A world that she locked out of, up to the time of her death. I believe that it was this same world that made her feel this insecurity and vulnerability. The author clarifies this point, “Thus she passed from generation to generation-dear,
inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse.”(86) The view of this society made her feel she could not
show any weakness, when she had little or no strength left. She did the only thing that would keep her from the same fate as her great aunt old lady Wyatt, she cut the connection. The end result was the increased scrutiny and curiosity of the town’s people. With all these antagonistic forces at hand, Miss Emily Grierson handled this as long as she could in true nature of her proud upbringing.
The plot of all stories has stages that it goes through in order to get its point across. These are the exposition, climax, and resolution. The exposition starts from the beginning of the story. It introduces all the players in the story, the conflicts, and the events that lead up to the climax. I believe that the exposition ended and the climax began at the point of the story when they are all gathered at her house for her funeral. The climax peaked at the point when they forced their way into the room that no one had seen in decades. The discovery of Emily’s lover on the bed “now in the long sleep that out lasts love” was the point that the resolution had begun to become evident. (87) The arsenic, her reluctant nature of letting anyone see that part of the house, and the secrecy all were tied together at this point. Here the reader reached an understanding of what the author was trying to tell them, which is the definition of the resolution. These stages are essential to the success of a good story.
The elements of a plot all work in synchronicity with one another. They all added there own flavor to the story. One can add a little more of one or two of these aspects of the plot to get a different affect. All in all, the story combined the right amount of these tools to attain not only a well written story but one that clearly states what the author is trying to convey.
Kirszner, Laurie G., and Stephen R. Mandell. A Rose for Emily. Fort Worth. Harcourt, 1997.