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Essay about The Scrambling of Time in Faulkner's A Rose for Emily

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The Scrambling of Time in Faulkner's A Rose for Emily


In, A Rose for Emily, Faulkner uses the element of time to enhance details of the setting and vice versa. By avoiding the chronological order of events of Miss Emily's life, Faulkner first gives the reader a finished puzzle, and then allows the reader to examine this puzzle piece by piece, step by step. By doing so, he enhances the plot and presents two different perspectives of time held by the characters. The first perspective (the world of the present) views time as a "mechanical progression" in which  the past is a "diminishing road." The second perspective (the world of tradition and the past) views the past as "a huge meadow which no winter ever quite touches, divided from them now by the narrow bottleneck of the most recent decade of years." The first perspective is that of Homer and the modern generation. The second is that of the older members of the Board of Aldermen and of the confederate soldiers. Emily holds the second view as well, except that for her there is no bottleneck dividing her from the meadow of the past.

Faulkner begins the story with Miss Emily's funeral, where the men see her as a "fallen monument" and the women are anxious to see the inside of her house. He gives us a picture of a woman who is frail because she has "fallen," yet as important and symbolic as a "monument." The details of Miss Emily's house closely relate to her and symbolize what she stands for. It is set on "what had once been the most select street." The narrator (which is the town in this case) describes the house as "stubborn and coquettish." Cotton gins and garages have long obliterated the neighborhood, but it is the only house left. With a further look at Miss Emily's l...


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...osition in regard to the specific problem of time is suggested in the scene where the old soldiers appear at her funeral. "The very old me-some in their brushed Confederate uniforms-on the porch and the lawn, talking of Miss Emily as is she had been a contemporary of their, believing that they had danced with her and courted her perhaps, confusing time with its mathematical progression." These men have lost their sense of time as well as Miss Emily. The hallucinate; they imagine things which never occurred; there is no sense of time in their minds. Faulkner presents a very horrifying picture in this story, and he does this by playing with the chronology, using symbols and foreshadowing and presenting a detailed setting.

Work Cited

Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” Literature for Composition. 4th ed. Ed. Sylvan Barnet, et al. New York: HarperCollins, 1996.


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