“A Rose for Emily”
by William Faulkner
Modified from an SRE™ created by Nikki Klatt
University of Minnesota
Table of Contents
Higher Order Thinking Skills Emphasized
Chronological List of Activities
Detailed Description of Activities
Sources of the Reading Selection, Additional Readings,
and Other Material
Yes sir. You can be more careless; you can put more trash in [a novel] and be excused for it. In a short story that's next to the poem, almost every word has got to be almost exactly right. In the novel you can be careless, but in a short story you can't. I mean by that the good short stories like Chekhov wrote. That's why I rate that second--it's because it demands a nearer absolute exactitude. You have less room to be slovenly and careless. There's less room in it for trash.
- William Faulkner
William Faulkner is often remembered for his classic novels such as Absalom, Absalom!, Go, Down Moses, and The Sound and the Fury and for receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949. But his literary legacy, which began in New Orleans when he published literary sketches for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, also includes several short stories in which he demonstrates his unparalleled attention for detail. "A Rose for Emily" is a story often read in high school, as it is a good introduction to the importance of close reading. The rich text provides innumerable details, imagery, symbolism, and a complex structure. Through reading and discussing the story, students also begin to learn the importance of point of view, time, and place in a narrative text. Members of Emily's community of Jefferson, Mississippi narrate the story so the town is more than simply a setting; it is a character with a voice and values. The reader ultimately knows more about the town and its attitudes than she knows about Emily Grierson herself. Therefore, because the reader sees Miss Emily as the town sees her, he or she is often surprised, intrigued, and perplexed by the story's outcome. The story has an interlaced and non-chronological plot, but it is certainly a plot that will intrigue many high school students. The story can be easily related to students' own social worlds (especially the theme of ostracizing a member of one's own community), and it includes a number of mysterious elements that maintain the reader's curiosity. Moreover, the ending of the story leaves a good deal of room for discussion and debate.
Faulkner's statement prefacing this introduction clearly shows the
great importance he attributed to finely crafting short stories and suggests
the challenge of writing short stories due to there being much less room
for error and non-essentials than there is in a novel. "A Rose for
Emily" exemplifies this philosophy. Faulkner's attention to detail,
carefully structured complex plot, imagery, symbolism, and historical
context make the story pleasurable to read and an appropriate vehicle
for close study and critical thinking.
- To give students the experience of critically analyzing a text
by doing a very close reading
- To teach students the importance
of paying attention to detail
- To introduce students to the social
climate of the South after the Civil War
- To teach students to cite
text evidence to support a claim about a literary piece
- To review
the concepts of IMAGERY and SYMBOLISM
- Analyzing — Breaking material into its constituent parts
and determining how the parts relate to one another and to an overall
structure or purpose.
- Evaluating — Making judgments based on
criteria and standards.
- Being metacognitive — Being aware
of one's own comprehension and being able and willing to repair
comprehension breakdowns when
(1) Building Background Knowledge (about the author), 10
(2) Relating the Reading to Students' Lives, 20 minutes
(3) Building Background Knowledge (relevant to the story), 20 minutes
(1) Pre-teaching Concepts, 30 minutes
(2) Providing Text-Specific Knowledge, 10 minutes
(3) Direction Setting, 10 minutes
(1) Reading to Students,10 minutes
(2) Guided Reading, 20 minutes
(3) Silent Reading, 20 minutes
(1) Questioning, 25 minutes
(2) Discussion, 25 minutes
(1) Discussion, 20 minutes
(2) Drama, 30 minutes
1. Building Background Knowledge (about the author), 10 minutes
- Begin the class by talking about William Faulkner, perhaps also
using the board, an overhead, or a slide show:
- Faulkner was born
in 1897 in New Albany, Mississippi into an old Southern family.
the exception for his service in World War I, he spent almost his entire
life in Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner says that he "discovered
that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about,” so
he began by writing newspaper sketches and stories for his hometown.
- Once he started publishing his work, he created a mythical county
with the name of “Yoknapatawpha,” and a number of his stories
take place in this fictional setting. He wrote widely acclaimed novels
such as The Sound and the Fury and Absalom, Absalom! as well as short
stories, such as "A Rose for Emily" and "The Bear."
- In 1949, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
- Faulkner was born in 1897 in New Albany, Mississippi into an old Southern family.
- Add to
this discussion by talking about Faulkner’s writing
style and key features of writing that you wish to emphasize.
2. Relating the Reading to Students' Lives, 20 minutes
- Relate one of the principle themes in “A Rose for Emily” to
students’ own lives (the theme of hanging on to the past or refusal
to change) by asking them to think of a significant change in their
lives and then to write down some of the thoughts they had while going
through that change. If necessary, give students prompts such as “Have
you ever started a new class that was that was really tough and forced
you to study late night after night, or began a new school activity
that seemed to demand all of your time?" "Have you ever moved
to a different city?” and "Did you ever move to a different
school midyear?' Ask students to think about some emotions they were
feeling at the time and consider whether or not these emotions had
an impact on some of the choices they made.
- After giving them a few
minutes to think, ask for volunteers to share their thoughts on these
3. Building Background Knowledge (relevant to the story), 20 minutes
- Use students' responses about hanging on to the past as a springboard
for building background knowledge relevant to understanding the setting
of the story and the attitudes of the townspeople.
- Start the discussion
by noting that the Civil War was a traumatic event in the lives of
many Southerners, certainly the sort of event
that might prompt some Southerners to hold on to the past.
move to questions such as “Who fought and who won?” and "What
effect might losing have had on the South?" Focus the discussion
on the South after the War. Draw what information you can from students.
However, if students give misinformation, give them corrective feedback
and make certain that the class as a whole has the correct information.
- If students lack some of the relevant background knowledge, you will
need to supply it so that by the end of the discussion they have a
basic understanding of the social, political, and/or economic climate
of the South in the decades following the war and the early 1900s.
Be sure to explain that there was in many ways a conquered nation and
that some Southerners had a hard time letting go of the past, disliked
the many changes that were occurring, and clung to their traditional
values. It is important for students to understand the social milieu
of Southern towns like Jefferson in the early 1900s in order to appreciate
why Emily behaves the way she does.
1. Pre-teaching Concepts, 30 minutes
- Three concepts, the first of which is procedural, are particularly
important to teach:
- Doing a close reading and carefully attending to details,
- Imagery, and
- Doing a close reading and carefully attending to details,
- In order to teach the procedural concept, explain to students that
it is critical with this text, and many other carefully crafted texts,
to do a close reading and carefully attend to details if they are to
really understand the text and the author's craft. Then, explain that
you are going to model this sort of reading for them by reading aloud.
Select a few sentences that demand such careful reading near the beginning
of "A Rose for Emily" and read them aloud, stopping when
you come to an important detail or a possibly puzzling part of the
text, and thinking aloud about its meaning and importance. Next, direct
students to the next segment of the text and ask them to carefully
read and think aloud as you just did but in pairs, with one student
first reading and thinking aloud and then the other doing the same.
Finally, ask one or two volunteers to model their close and careful
reading for the class.
- Although most students will have worked with
the concepts of imagery and symbolism in the past, these are tough
concepts and will profit
from review. "A Rose for Emily" is a very appropriate vehicle
for such review because it is rich in imagery and symbolism. Begin
by noting that you have just been discussing the importance of carefully
attending to details and that the rich imagery and symbols that Faulkner
provides are among the most important details to deal with. Ask for
volunteers to define imagery. Then work with their definitions to be
sure that you come up with a clear and crisp definition the class can
share, something like "the use of language to create sensory impressions." Give
an example of imagery in something students have read recently, and
solicit some examples from them.
- Next, go through the same process
with symbolism, working toward an eventual definition much like "the
use of one thing to suggest something else, the use of concrete items
to represent abstractions.” Again,
conclude by giving some examples and soliciting some from students.
2. Providing Text-Specific Knowledge, 10 minutes
- Present the preview for the story (see Student Materials). You don't have to memorize the preview, you can simply read it. But it is important to go through it a few times before you present it to the class so that your reading is fluent and includes a good deal of expression.
3. Direction Setting, 10 minutes
- Remind students that as they read the story, they should do a close and careful reading, looking for imagery and symbolism as well as paying attention to details. Note too that they will be answering some challenging questions on the text and trying to understand it deeply, and that with these sorts of goals they may want to take some notes as the read. It may also be a good idea to point out that the story is not written in chronological order and that they need to be attentive to the time periods presented. Finally, ask students to consider carefully what motivates Miss Emily to do the things she does during the different time periods of the story, noting that if they can answer this question they will be going a long way toward understanding a major theme of the story.
1. Reading to Students,10 minutes
- Begin the class by reading Part I of “A Rose for Emily” aloud. Read slowly and with expression, making the most of Faulkner's brilliant use of language.
2. Guided Reading, 20 minutes
- After reading Part I, cite some examples of imagery, such as
Miss Emily being dressed in black, and symbolism, such as the portrait
of Miss Emily’s father. Then, ask students to identify other
examples of these elements.
- After this, ask students to identify passages
with particularly vivid and memorable detail. For example, students
may identify this passage
about two thirds of the way through Part I: “Her eyes, lost in
the fatty ridges of her face, looked like two small pieces of coal
pressed into a lump of dough as they moved from one face to another.” Finally,
ask the students what makes the detail in the passage they identified
particularly effective and how they think such detail contributes to
the success of the story.
3. Silent Reading, 20 minutes
- Give students the remainder of the class period to continue reading the story silently, and ask them to finish the story at home so that they are prepared to answer questions on it at the beginning of tomorrow's class. Again stress the importance of close reading and keeping track of details and of consciously looking for imagery and symbolism.
1. Questioning, 25 minutes
- Use the story map (see “Student Materials”) to give
students an opportunity to both assess and promote their comprehension
of the story. As explained in the introductory discussion of the
story map (see “Student Materials”), story maps are made
up of two sorts of questions—basic questions that leave students
with a fundamental understanding of the story and extension questions
require students to step back from the story and consider such matters
as the author's craft and relationships between the story and their
- Have pairs of students first answer the basic story map
questions and then respond to the extension questions.
- If time permits, once students have dealt with the
questions in pairs, they can form groups of four, compare their answers,
recognize where their answers differ, and consider whether or not
they can work out these differences.
2. Discussion, 25 minutes
- After they have completed the story maps in small groups, have
students reassemble as a class to share their responses to the questions.
This is one of your major opportunities to check on how well you have
achieved your major objectives—giving students the experience
of critically analyzing a text, teaching them the importance of attending
to detail, introducing them to the climate of the South after the Civil
War, teaching them to cite evidence to support their claims, and reviewing
the concepts of imagery and symbolism—and to generally foster
higher-level reading and comprehension skills. Go through the basic
story map questions one-by-one, soliciting students, responses and
asking them to defend their responses with references to the text and
to articulate their arguments. Once you've dealt with the story map
questions, student should have an overall understanding of the story.
Next, turn to the extension questions.
- As you will see when you consider
them, some of the basic questions and some of the extension questions
have definite answers, but others
do not. While you should strive to see that all students agree on the
answers to the questions that have definite answers, this isn't your
goal with those questions that allow various answers. In answering
these questions, your goal should be that students support their answers
from the text when possible, support them with clearly stated arguments
when necessary, listen to each other, and realize the importance of
citing evidence and marshalling and assessing arguments.
1. Discussion, 30-50 minutes
- Use the discussion web (see “Student Materials”) as
an aid to focus students' attention and make their thinking public
as they engage in a debate. As you can see, the question investigated
in the discussion web is “Was Miss Emily crazy?”
the discussion web on the chalkboard, putting the question about Emily
in the center and making two columns, one “yes” column
and one “no” column, for students' responses. Begin by
forming heterogeneous groups of three or four students.
- Assign half
of the groups to take the "yes" side and marshal
evidence and arguments for that position and the other half of the
groups to take the "no" side and marshal evidence for that
- After about 10 minutes, or when the groups seem to have
generated as many responses as they are likely to, have students
a class to share their responses. This is another major opportunity
to check on how well you have achieved your major objectives for
the SRE and to continue to foster the higher-level reading and comprehension
skills you are emphasizing—fostering intellectual engagement
and perseverance, appreciating different perspectives, and distinguishing
between relevant and irrelevant facts and marshalling evidence. As
was the case with the story map, the discussion web is unlikely to
produce consensus on all issues. Again, though, your goals are to
teach students to support their answers from the text when possible,
them with clearly stated arguments when necessary, listen to each
other, and realize the importance of citing evidence and marshalling
2. Drama (a possible activity), 30 minutes
- Because the discussion web activity is such an excellent
opportunity for solidifying the objectives of the SRE and fostering
higher-level reading and comprehension skills, we have deliberately
left the entire period for the discussion web activity if you need
it. However, if the discussion wanes or you have accomplished your
purposes, then there is nothing to be gained by drawing out the discussion.
- At this point, then, you could go on to something besides the SRE,
or you could give students an opportunity to watch a film version of "A
Rose for Emily" (see “Video of the Story”), partly
to show them one more perspective on the story and partly to reward
them for their hard work. Finishing the film is likely to require part
of another class period.
Student materials for "A Rose for Emily" include a preview, a story map, and a discussion web:
- Preview for "A Rose for Emily." Previews (Graves, Prenn, & Cooke,
1985) are well-crafted introductions to a text which read to students
shortly before they begin reading the text. Previews include an introduction
designed to capture students' interest, an overview of the text up
to the climax or some earlier suitable stopping point, and very brief
directions for reading.
- Story Map for "A Rose for Emily." Story
maps (Beck & McKeown,
1981) are a set of questions which, when answered, reveal the essence
of the story. The basic set of story map questions follow the order
of the story, focus on events of central importance in the story, and
require both factual knowledge and inferences.
- Discussion Web for "A
Rose for Emily." Discussion webs
(Alvermann, 1991) are graphic organizer used to focus the students’ attention
and make their thinking and claims public as they consider a question
that requires them to consider and support two positions. In the story
map used here, the central question is "Was Miss Emily crazy?" Students
list responses that support that she was and responses that support
that she was not.
In the late 1800s after the North won the Civil War, most of the United States experienced progress, industrial growth, and material prosperity. But the South, upon losing the war, felt greatly disadvantaged in a nation that was otherwise strong and confident. The Southern states were slow to change and tried to maintain their traditional values as much as possible. Sometimes certain events change people’s attitudes and perceptions of the world, while others try to hold on to their old inclinations. Have you ever experienced a time in your life when change was extremely difficult? If so, how did you respond to those changes? Did you accept them or did you try to cling to the past?
Story Map for "A Rose for Emily"
In William Faulkner’s short story “A Rose for Emily,” the main character Emily lives in the southern town of Jefferson, Mississippi. The story, narrated by an anonymous member of the community, begins at Emily’s funeral. Then the story flashes back to many years prior to Emily’s death, a time when she lived with her father and was in love with a Northern man. Throughout the story, the townspeople talk about Emily and her unusual nature. She locks herself in her house, which remains the same in appearance her entire life. She rarely takes any trips into town. When she finally does make an arrival in town, she makes a strange purchase at the local pharmacy. When she eventually dies, the townspeople enter her house for the first time in ten years only to discover something horrific. Read the story to explore her very peculiar actions and learn more about Miss Emily’s unwillingness to change with modern times.
1. Why did the people of the town attend Miss Emily’s funeral even though no one had seen her for the last ten years?
2. What was the reason for the special meeting of the Board of Alderman? Why did some members of the community go to Miss Emily’s house? What did they find?
3. Why didn’t Miss Emily’s father allow her to marry? What happens to her father in this section?
4. In this part, the story now flashes back to thirty years prior to Miss Emily’s death. What draws four men to visit her house at that time?
5. With whom is Miss Emily in love? Where is he from? Why is this critical to the story?
6. Why did the town feel sorry for Miss Emily? What did they think happened to her relationship?
7. Miss Emily went to the pharmacist to buy some poison. What did the town think she was going to do with it?
8. What eventually happens to Miss Emily? Be very specific in your answer.
9. After her funeral, some men visited Miss Emily’s house for the
third and last time. What did they find in her upstairs bedroom?
1. The story begins with Miss Emily’s funeral. Then in Part II, the story flashes back to thirty years before Miss Emily’s death. In Part III the story flashes back even earlier, to when Emily was first in love. Finally, the story ends at the time of her death in Part V. Why do you think Faulkner composes the plot out of chronological order?
2. Critics have said that the narrator of the story is the town? If this is so, why is it significant?
3. Earlier this week, we discussed the concepts of imagery and symbolism. Provide one example of imagery and one of symbolism from the story and explain how they contribute to the story.
4. Critics have said that by locking herself in her house over the
years, Miss Emily was trying to hold on to her traditional southern
refusing to change with the times. Construct a logical argument
in support of this interpretation, using as many specifics from the
story as possible.
Note, however, that this theme is not made explicit in the story
and that you will need to make inferences as part of your argument.
|Was Miss Emily Crazy?|
Lauter, P. (Ed.). (1994). Heath Anthology of American Literature. Lexington, Massachusetts: DC Heath and Company.
McDonald, E. (Ed.). (1995). Collected Stories of William Faulkner. New York: Random House.
http://xroads.virginia.edu/~DRBR/wf_rose.html The complete text of the story.Criticism / Book Reviews
Polk, N., & Kirszner, L. G. (Eds.). (2000). A Rose for Emily: William Faulkner. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt College. This text, from the Harcourt Brace casebook series in literature, includes both the complete short story and a number of critical articles on it.Multimedia
Chubbuck, L. (Producer), & Dyal, H. K. (Screenwriter). (1983) A rose for Emily [Film]. (Available from Chubbuck Cinema Company)Internet Sites
http://www.mcsr.olemiss.edu/~egjbp/faulkner/faulkner.html William Faulkner on the Web. This site bills itself as the ultimate guide to William Faulkner, and that's just what it is. It is a well organized, complete, and user friendly site.
http://cai.ucdavis.edu/enl3/emily.html Includes articles about Faulkner, articles about "A Rose for Emily," teaching suggestions, and some information on Southern fiction.References
Alvermann, D. (1991). The discussion web: A graphic aid for learning across the curriculum. The Reading Teacher, 45, 92-99.
Beck, I. L., & McKeown, M. G. (1981). Developing questions that promote comprehension: The story map. Language Arts, 58, 913-918.
Graves, M. F., Prenn, M. C., & Cooke, C. L. (1985).
The coming attraction: Previewing short stories to increase comprehension.
Journal of Reading, 28, 594-598.