Setting is usually pretty rich in Faulkner. SimCity-style, William Faulkner created his own Mississippi County, Yoknapatawpha, as the setting for much of his fiction. This county comes complete with several different families including the Grierson family. "A Rose for Emily" is set in the county seat of Yoknapatawpha, Jefferson and as you know, focuses on Emily Grierson, the last living Grierson. For a map and a detailed description of Yoknapatawpha, click here.
OK, so the where is pretty easy. Though Jefferson and its inhabitants are unique, we can see their town as any southern town during that period. The situations that arise in the story develop in large part because many southerners who lived during the slavery era didn't know what to do when that whole way of life ended. Imagine if suddenly you are told and shown that your whole way of life is a sham, an atrocity, an evil. Then heap on a generous helping of southern pride, and you have tragedies like this one. This story also explores how future generations deal with this legacy. To really feel the movement of history in the story, and to understand the movements of Emily's life, it important to pin down the chronology of events.
The dates we use, other than 1874, are just a little rough, but in the ballpark.
1861 – Miss Emily Grierson is born.
1870s – The Grierson house is built.
1893 – Miss Emily's father dies.
1893 – Miss Emily falls ill.
1893 – Miss Emily's taxes are remitted (in December).
1894 – Miss Emily meets Homer Barron (in the summer).
1895 – Homer is last seen entering Miss Emily's house (Emily is "over thirty; we use thirty-three for our calculations).
1895 – The townspeople become concerned about the smell of the Grierson house and sprinkle lime around Emily's place.
1895 – Miss Emily stays in for six months.
1895-1898 – Miss Emily emerges and her hair gradually turns gray.
1899 – Miss Emily stops opening her door, and doesn't leave the house for about five years.
1904 – Miss Emily emerges to give china-painting lessons for about seven years.
1911 – Miss Emily stops giving painting lessons. Over ten years pass before she has any contact with the town.
1925 – They "newer generation" comes to ask about the taxes. This is thirty years after the business with the lime. This is the last contact she has with the town before her death.
1935 – Miss Emily dies at 74 years old. Tobe leaves the house. Two days later the funeral is held at the Grierson house. At the funeral, the townspeople break down the door to the bridal chamber/crypt, which no one has seen in 40 years.
This doesn't answer all the questions by any means. Since nobody in the town ever knew what was really going on in Emily's house, there are numerous holes and gaps in this history. Still, you can use this as a guide to help make sense of some of the confusing moments.