In the 1930’s people still thrive on gossip, particularly in a small town. People are overly curious and cruel at times, especially when it comes to Emily Grierson’s mental disorder. In “ A Rose for Emily,” William Faulkner traces Miss Emily’s increasing dementia and foreshadows the surprise ending.
The reader begins to see Emily’s insanity early in the story. She not only refuses to accept her father’s death, but she also refuses to let the townspeople bury him. The townspeople do not say she is crazy yet. They believe that she has to “cling to that which had robbed her”(180). This is the first sign of Emily’s vanishing sanity.
Emily’s state of mind grows worse after Homer Barron enters her life. Emily is flattered by the attention of this new man in her life. The townspeople do not approve of him because of the fact that he is a northern “day laborer”(180). Faulkner foreshadows the murder of Homer Barron by Miss Emily’s purchase of the arsenic and by his sudden departure from the town.
Faulkner shows the reader yet another sign of insanity by her refusal to accept that she does owe taxes. Miss Emily is considered “a tradition, a duty, and a care,”(177) an obligation to this small town. She is led to believe that she owes no taxes by the mayor, a friend of her fathers. When the next generation of politicians come to collect her taxes, she only says “see Colonel Sartoris”(178), who any sane member of this small community would know by this time is dead.
Next, Faulkner uses sense imagery, particularly smell, to show another sign of her insanity. The smell that comes from her home is so bad that it causes her neighbors to complain to the judge, insisting on a mandatory clean-up. This horrible smell, however, does not seem to bother Miss Emily. She continues to remain inside the house day and night. Shortly after Emily’s death, the townspeople find the last clue of Miss Emily’s insanity, Homer Barron’s rotten corpse in Miss Emily’s bedchamber.
Therefore, in “A Rose for Emily,” William Faulkner gives the reader foreshadowing clues throughout the story of Miss Emily’s lack of sanity and the surprise ending of Homer Barron’s death. In the beginning of this story the townspeople have a suspicion about Miss Emily’s insanity. Throughout the course of the story their suspicions are proven to be Emily’s reality.