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A Rose For Emily CommonLit Answers

  • 12th Grade
  • Lexile: 1120

Text-Dependent Questions And Answers

Which of the following best identifies two major themes of the text?betrayal and revenge
2. “August” in paragraph 2respected or higher status
3. Emily and the townpity due to perceived madness
4. Generation gapyounger generation challenges special treatment of Emily
5. Timeline and suspensebuilds towards the revelation of Emily’s secret
6. Foreshadowing imagethe smell coming from Miss Emily’s home
7. Homer Barron’s arrivalleads to scandal and town’s disapproval
8. Living room settingreveals poverty and squalor despite Emily’s high-class image
9. Description of Emily’s haircontributes to shock at the story’s conclusion

Question: What effect do Faulkner’s choices about how to reveal the events of Miss Emily’s life have on the reader?


Faulkner’s deliberate non-chronological and fragmented narrative structure creates a compelling, yet disorienting experience for the reader. This effect is achieved through several key choices:

1. Lack of Chronological Order: The story jumps back and forth in time, making it difficult to establish a clear timeline of events. This disorientation keeps the reader engaged, piecing together the puzzle of Miss Emily’s life.

2. Frequent Topic Shifts: The narrative often changes focus within sections, even within paragraphs, adding to the disorienting effect. This constant shift forces the reader to pay close attention to each detail, further enhancing the sense of mystery.

Example: “Up to the day of her death at seventy-four it was still that vigorous iron-gray, like the hair of an active man. From that time on her front door remained closed, save for a period of six or seven years, when she was about forty, during which she gave lessons in china-painting” (Faulkner). This passage abruptly shifts from talking about Homer’s disappearance to Emily’s hair, then her death, and finally back to her painting lessons years ago. This disrupts the reading flow and forces the reader to piece together the chronology of events.

3. Suspenseful Information Delivery: The story intentionally withholds key information, building suspense and anticipation. For instance, the purchase of arsenic initially leads the reader to believe Emily plans suicide, only to be surprised by the later revelation of its true use.

Overall, Faulkner’s narrative choices create a sense of mystery, suspense, and disorientation that draws the reader into Miss Emily’s enigmatic world. The fragmented structure allows for a gradual unveiling of her secrets, enhancing the story’s impact and leaving a lasting impression on the reader.

Discussion Questions & Answers

Question: Is there evidence the townspeople knew that Emily had a break with reality earlier than when they find the body at the end of the story? Cite evidence from the text to support your answer.


Yes, the text provides several clues suggesting the townspeople suspected Emily had a break from reality earlier than the discovery of the body:

1. Denial of her father’s death:

  • “When she met the first of the ladies at the gate, she said: ‘Tell them to go away. Tell them I have company and don’t want to be disturbed'” (Faulkner).
  • “She said her father was not dead” and kept the body “for three days, refusing to allow the undertaker to remove it” (Faulkner).

2. Comparison to her “crazy” great-aunt:

  • “People in our town, remembering how old lady Wyatt, her great-aunt, had gone completely crazy at last” (Faulkner).
  • This comparison implies a suspicion of hereditary madness in Emily, even though they don’t openly call her “crazy” themselves.

3. Excessive grief and isolation:

  • “We were a little curious about how she was living all by herself, but we were too busy with our own lives” (Faulkner).
  • Despite concern, the townspeople didn’t actively intervene in Emily’s increasingly isolated and unusual behavior.

4. Purchase of arsenic and subsequent behavior:

  • “She did not ask him to deliver it to her door. She said: ‘I will come for it myself'” (Faulkner).
  • This secrecy and her lack of remorse during the arsenic purchase further fueled suspicions about her mental state.

5. Homer Barron’s disappearance and Emily’s continued seclusion:

  • “We had long thought of them as a sort of father and daughter” (Faulkner).
  • The townspeople’s discomfort with the relationship, coupled with Homer’s disappearance and Emily’s continued isolation, reinforced their suspicion that something was amiss.

While the townspeople never explicitly acknowledge Emily’s possible break from reality, their actions and observations clearly suggest a growing awareness of her unusual behavior and possible mental instability. They choose to attribute it to grief, loneliness, or eccentricity, ultimately failing to intervene until the shocking discovery at the story’s end.

Question: The story “A Rose for Emily” features several symbols. Identify one and explain its significance to the plot. Why is the story titled “A Rose for Emily”? Consider any mentions of roses or flowers in the passage.

Answer: The roses in “A Rose for Emily” are not merely decorative elements. They carry significant symbolic meaning related to Emily’s life, death, and legacy in the community.

  • Juxtaposition with Decay: Throughout the story, the decaying grandeur of Emily’s house contrasts with the vibrant life of the roses. This juxtaposition underscores Emily’s own fading life and the enduring power of memory.
  • Planting on Grave and House: Jughaid’s act of planting roses over Emily’s grave and around her house signifies a deliberate effort to preserve her memory. The roses symbolize the townspeople’s acknowledgment of her life, despite her eccentricities and isolation.
  • Symbol of Beauty and Fragility: The roses, despite their beauty, are ultimately ephemeral and fragile. This reflects the fleeting nature of life and the inevitability of death.

The title “A Rose for Emily”: Multiple Interpretations:

The title of the story, “A Rose for Emily,” can be interpreted in multiple ways, all connected to the symbolism of the rose:

  • A Literal Offering: On a literal level, the rose can be seen as a symbolic offering to Emily, a gesture of respect and remembrance after her death.
  • Metaphor for Preservation: The rose can be interpreted as a metaphor for Emily’s life story, preserved in the minds of the townspeople, even though much of it remains shrouded in mystery.
  • Beauty in Decay: The rose, with its contrasting beauty and fragility, can be seen as a representation of Emily’s life – a once vibrant and beautiful individual who ultimately succumbed to decay and isolation.

Rose as a Reminder of Emily’s Complexity:

While the rose offers a glimmer of hope and beauty, it also serves as a reminder of Emily’s complex and ultimately tragic life. The townspeople, through the act of planting and tending to the roses, acknowledge her presence and influence on their community, even if they never fully understood her.

Question: In the context of this passage, what drives a person to betray? Cite evidence from this text, your own experience, or other literature, art, and history in your answer.

Answer: While the text primarily focuses on Miss Emily’s eccentricities and tragic life, rather than explicitly exploring motivations for betrayal, it still offers insights into the complexities of human psychology that can lead to such actions.

1. Fear and Self-Preservation:

Emily’s decision to preserve Homer’s body can be interpreted as an act of self-preservation. Fearful of losing the only person offering her companionship and defying the expectations of a conservative society, she chooses to deny reality and preserve his presence in her life, even in death.

2. Desire for Control and Power:

Emily’s refusal to relinquish control over her life and choices is evident throughout the story. This can be seen in her defiance of societal norms, her isolated lifestyle, and even her final act of preserving Homer’s body. This desire for control, while understandable, can lead to actions that harm others, blurring the line between self-preservation and betrayal.

3. Societal Constraints and Misunderstandings:

The rigid social norms and expectations placed upon women in Emily’s time undoubtedly contributed to her isolation and subsequent alienation. The townspeople, unable to understand her grief and eccentric behavior, judge and ostracize her, further fueling her isolation and potentially contributing to her decision to reject their values and expectations.

4. Personal Loss and Unresolved Trauma:

Miss Emily’s life is marked by a series of losses and traumatic experiences, including the death of her father and the disapproval of her relationship with Homer. These events likely caused significant emotional distress, leading her to withdraw from society and potentially harboring resentment that could manifest in unexpected ways.

Betrayal in Literature, Art, and History:

Betrayal is a recurring theme in various forms of art and literature throughout history. In Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” Brutus’s betrayal of his friend Caesar stems from a complex mix of personal ambition, political ideals, and societal pressure. Similarly, the biblical story of Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus highlights the role of greed and opportunism in driving betrayal.

Beyond the Text:

In our personal lives, we may encounter situations where betrayal feels like the only option for survival or self-preservation. Whether it’s protecting ourselves from harm, escaping an abusive relationship, or upholding our values in a difficult situation, the motivations for betrayal can be complex and multifaceted.

Question: The title of this unit is “Something Wicked.” In what ways was Miss Emily wicked or evil? Cite quotes and details from the text to support your answer.

Answer: While Miss Emily’s actions in “A Rose for Emily” are undeniably tragic and unconventional, labeling her as simply “wicked” ignores the complexities of her character and the circumstances that shaped her life.

Evidence for “Wickedness”:

  • Isolation and Alienation: Miss Emily’s self-imposed isolation and refusal to conform to societal norms contribute to her perceived wickedness. The townspeople see her as strange and aloof, further fueling their distrust and negativity towards her.
  • Purchase of Arsenic and Potential Murder: The purchase of arsenic and the subsequent discovery of Homer’s decaying body undoubtedly paint Emily in a dark light. This act, regardless of the motivation, suggests a willingness to commit a terrible crime, aligning with the label of “wickedness.”
  • Emotional Manipulation and Denial: Emily’s refusal to acknowledge her father’s death and her potential manipulation of Homer’s feelings could be seen as evidence of her calculated and cruel nature. These actions demonstrate her ability to manipulate and deceive, further supporting the perception of wickedness.

Considerations for Misunderstanding:

  • Societal Constraints and Expectations: The rigid social norms of the time likely stifled Emily’s individuality and contributed to her feelings of isolation and alienation. Her refusal to conform could be seen as a rebellion against these constraints, a desperate attempt to claim some control over her own life.
  • Grief and Unresolved Trauma: Emily experiences significant losses throughout her life, including the deaths of her father and potentially her lover, Homer. These traumatic events undoubtedly caused emotional distress, potentially leading to her unconventional and even disturbing behavior.
  • Lack of Understanding and Compassion: The townspeople’s inability to understand Emily’s grief and eccentric behavior fuels their negative perception of her. They judge her harshly, further isolating her and exacerbating her emotional state.

Question: Name a character from another text we have read who is similar to Miss Emily, in that they put their needs and desires above others’ welfare. What makes their actions so wicked?

Answer: While Miss Emily and Mrs. Summers both prioritize their own needs and desires over the welfare of others, the nature of their actions and the reasons behind them differ significantly.

Miss Emily:

  • Motivations: Grief, loneliness, fear of societal expectations, desire for control.
  • Actions: Isolation, self-preservation, potentially murder.
  • Impact: Negatively affects herself and those around her, creates fear and suspicion.

Mrs. Summers:

  • Motivation: Tradition, conformity, maintaining social order.
  • Actions: Participation in and support of a deadly lottery, stoning an innocent woman.
  • Impact: Direct cause of harm and death, perpetuates a harmful tradition.


  • Both prioritize self-preservation and their own desires.
  • Both inflict harm on others, even though the extent and nature of the harm differ.
  • Both actions can be considered “wicked” as they cause suffering and disregard the well-being of others.


  • Miss Emily’s actions are primarily driven by personal trauma and isolation, while Mrs. Summers is driven by conformity and the desire to maintain the status quo.
  • Miss Emily’s actions are more ambiguous and open to interpretation, while Mrs. Summers’ participation in the stoning is clearly defined and undeniably harmful.
  • Miss Emily’s harm is primarily self-inflicted and indirectly affects those around her, while Mrs. Summers directly causes harm and death to another individual.

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