Gavin Stevens (a William Faulkner character) famously says, "The past is never dead. It's not even past." This idea is highly visible in all Faulkner's work, and we definitely see it here, in "A Rose for Emily." Spanning approximately 74 years, this short story spins backwards and forwards in time like memory, and shows a southern town torn between the present and the past. Post-Civil War and Pre-Civil Rights, "A Rose for Emily" shows us an American South in limbo, trying desperately, with each generation, to find a better way, a way which honors the good of the past, while coming to terms with its evils.
When Miss Emily begins dating Homer Barron, she is trying to free herself from her father's past control, and from the tradition of being a proper lady.
The story's structure is meant to mimic the way that memories are passed on from one generation to the next.