The Nature of Time and Change in William Faulkner's A Rose for Emily

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The Nature of Time and Change in William Faulkner's A Rose for Emily

In "A Rose for Emily," William Faulkner's use of language foreshadows and builds up to the climax of the story. His choice of words is descriptive, tying resoundingly into the theme through which Miss Emily Grierson threads, herself emblematic of the effects of time and the nature of the old and the new. Appropriately, the story begins with death, flashes back to the near distant past and leads on to the demise of a woman and the traditions of the past she personifies. Faulkner has carefully crafted a multi-layered masterpiece, and he uses language, characterization, and chronology to move it along, a sober commentary flowing beneath on the nature of time, change,
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We learn that "her voice was dry and cold" and that she did not accept no for an answer (667). Her house, a fading photograph, "smelled of dust and disuse-a closed, dank smell," and when her guests are seated a "faint dust" rises "sluggishly about their thighs" (667). All of these terms suggest neglect, decay, entropy: each of these elements tie in with the surface layer as well as the deeper themes upon which Faulkner tiers.

After carefully building such descriptive statements, Faulkner flashes back in time and examines the events that lead up to the moment of death. This toggling of events has been skillfully constructed, building suspense in a way that a straight forward chronology could not. The first unusual element that catches the curiosity of the reader is the mention of "the smell," which happened "thirty years before" (667).

The smell, however, continues to persist, rapping on the reader's curiosity for attention: What is the significance of this infernal "smell"? Faulkner chooses to tell us only enough to keep us guessing, diverting us with the four men who "slunk about the house like burglars, sniffing along the base of the brickwork" with a single man forming a "regular sowing motion" with the lime in his hand (668). No sooner is this done, however, than the light comes on and Emily's "upright torso [sits] motionless as that of an idol" (668). Here
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