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 life, we realize the importance of the setting in which the story takes place. The house in which she lives remains static and unchanged as the town progresses. Inside the walls of her abode, Miss Emily conquers time and progression.
In chapter one, Faulkner takes us back to the time when Miss Emily refused to pay her taxes. She believes that just because Colonel Sartoris remitted her taxes in 1894, that she is exempt from paying them even years later. The town changes, it's people change, yet Miss Emily has put a halt on time. In her mind, the Colonel is still alive even though he is not. When the deputation waits upon her, we get a glimpse of her decaying house. "It smelled of dust and disuse…It was furnished in heavy, leather covered furniture…the leather was cracked….On a tarnished gilt easel before the fireplace stood a crayon portrait of Miss Emily's father." The description of Miss Emily's house is very haunting. There is no life or motion in this house. Everything appears to be decaying, just as Miss Emily herself. The picture of her father is just another symbol of immobility and no sense of time. When he died, Miss Emily refused to acknowledge his death. She stopped time, at least in her mind.