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The use of conflict, foreshadowing, and flashbacks throughout the story forms 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 into 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.
How it works
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 himself/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 flashbacks and foreshadowing by the author helps 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, helped shape her in the eyes of the reader. Emily was a woman who had been raised at 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 the happiness she felt she deserved, but always maintained 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 the lack of a substantial inheritance made her feel as though her life was spinning out of control. She could not bear the thought of being without Homer and being alone with nothing. This is why she killed him and still slept beside him all those years. His death created a conflict with her moral character, which is why she became a recluse. Apart from this struggle, Emily had also become an old lady surrounded by a new generation of townspeople and leaders. She had become somewhat of a burden to the town because of Colonel Sartoris’ promise to exempt 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 the 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 who battles with her father’s controlling hand and his death, her own conscience about killing Homer, and the constant scrutiny from the townspeople. All these forces are the story’s antagonists. They are the opposing forces Emily must deal with before her death. Examining the role 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 led to her 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 sense of security from the outside world. A world that she locked out up to the time of her death.
I believe it was this same world that made her feel this insecurity and vulnerability. The author clarifies on this point, “Thus, she passed from generation to generation—dear, Palomo 4 inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse”(86). The view of this society made her feel she could not show any weakness if 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 increased scrutiny and curiosity from the townspeople. With all these antagonistic forces at hand, Miss Emily Grierson handled this as long as she could, true to the nature of her proud upbringing. The plot of all stories has stages, through which it gets its point across. These include exposition, climax, and resolution. The exposition starts from the beginning of the story – introducing the characters, conflicts, and events leading up to the climax. I believe that the exposition ended and the climax began at the point in the story when they 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, marked the culmination.
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