Study Guide

A Rose for Emily Section 5

By William Faulkner

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Section 5

  • Tobe opens the door to the women of the town on the day of the funeral, and then he leaves by the back door.
  • He isn't seen again, as far as anyone knows.
  • The cousins show up right away and hold the big funeral, on the day after Miss Emily's death.
  • The narrator says that the town women are pretty grim.
  • Some of the older men at the funeral wear their old Confederate soldier uniforms. They may even have danced with her and dated her when she was young.
  • (Since Emily was seventy-four when she died, these guys must be near that age or older.)
  • The narrator says that these men are confused about time, because they don't see the past as a "road" that they get father and farther away from, but as "a huge meadow which no winter ever quite touches" (5.2).
  • This meadow of the past is only "divided from them by" the last decade (5.2).
  • The narrator is basically saying that for these men, the past is a huge lush playground that never changes. Since the men aren't actually in that past, they still feel separated from it by time.
  • Anyhow, the narrator says that town already knows that upstairs in Miss Emily's house there is a certain room, a room that "no one had seen in forty years" (5.3).
  • They know they will have to break down the door to get in there.
  • Out of decency, they wait until after Miss Emily is buried before they do the deed.
  • (You really should check out our "What's Up the Ending?", where you'll find a break-down of the story's final moments.)
  • They break down the door to find an incredibly dusty room.
  • The first thing they notice about the room is that it's set up like a bridal suite. It's also described as having a "thin, acrid pall as of thetomb."
  • This "pall of the tomb" covers the curtains, which are "of a faded rose color," and the light covers are "rose-colored" (5.4).
  • It even colors the old, silver shaving-kit on the dressing table.
  • On the dressing table they see a collar (in those days most men's shirts had removable collars), and a tie.
  • In the bed, they see...
  • Homer Barron.
  • He's wearing a smile—or, rather, the grimace of a skeleton—and his body looks like it "had once lain in the attitude of embrace" (5.6).
  • We'll quote the next little bit for you: "[B]ut now the long sleep that outlasts love, that conquers even the grimace of love, had cuckolded him" (5.6).
  • Let's take a closer look at this line: the "sleep that outlasts love" is death, and "to cuckold" is to cheat you your (male) partner. So, we think the basic meaning of the passage is that death has finally cheated on him with Emily and/or that Emily has cheated on Homer with death.
  • There isn't much left of Homer.
  • He's just about rotted into the bed, nightshirt and all.
  • There's a pillow next to him.
  • On the pillow is "an indentation of a head" (5.7).
  • One of the townspeople picks something up off of the pillow.
  • It's a hair, a "long strand of iron-gray hair" (5.7).

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