Because "A Rose for Emily" can be extremely difficult to understand, I reinforce the elements of plot by watching the video and examining how each version plays with the story's chronological order. My experience has been that students get confused by the story because it is not told in chronological order. Accordingly, the story reinforces the idea that not all works of literature are told in chronological order. It will take some close reading and analysis to piece the work together in order to evaluate the manner in which Emily is depicted. Students will consider whether Emily is a predator or a victim of circumstances. Of course, the answer to this question may be a little of both. If we examine her relationship with her father, Emily is lost and lonely when he dies. He has been such a dominant force in her life, she has difficulties living independently and her father is the reason she has not entertained a romantic relationship. Perhaps, it is this reason that she becomes easy prey for Homer Baron, her love interest. However, as the story progresses, Emily is able to turn the table and Homer becomes her prey.
To faciliate an understanding of the story, we work on a graphic organizer in which students perform a close reading and plot out the chronological order of the story. They will also answer questions pertaining to indirect and direct characterization. They may use this graphic organizer to prepare for a quiz the next day.
In this section, I will put two sentences on the projector and ask students to look for errors. I ask for volunteers or I pull popsicle sticks to call on students. We review the errors whole class.
I have students watch the video version with Angelica Huston to get a better grip on the events in the story. Additionally, the video gives students a look at a director's interpretation of the Faulkner story. I use the opportunity to generate a discussion as to how the director uses the plot order to tell his version of the story. Students should notice that there are subtle hints that the video version is telling the story out of order; however, it pretty much stays true to a traditional plot order.
Additionally, the narrative in the short story has Roman Numerals to indicate when a section has started. I ask students to indicate why they think Faulkner tells the story out of order? What effect was he looking to achieve?
I have students complete this graphic organizer because it pretty much allows them to break apart the story to figure out individual elements. The first part has them plot out the events in order on a plot map. To encourage them to engage the text, I have them write out key words or phrases that indicate each plot element. For example, in the beginning of the story, the narrator describes Miss Emily's house as "decorated with cupolas and spires, and scrolled balconies...in the lightsome style of the seventies." We know that the narrator does not mean the 1970s because scrolled balconies would indicate the type of structure on an old Victorian house. We know the story is set in the South because of the constant "Miss Emily" address and the disparaging remarks made about "Negroes." We also know that there is a underlying allegiance to the Old South as indicated by the Confederate references. Other questions ask them to consider the conflict in the story. Of course, students always mention the physical, external conflict of Miss Emily poisoning Homer, but they often fail to see the internal conflict that Miss Emily constantly battles: living up to the expectations of her father and the Old South. They also have some difficulties in recognizing the symbolism of the rose. Of course, the rose is a symbol of love, but depending on the color, it could also symbolize death. People often try to preserve roses because they have sentimental value. Emily does the same thing with Homer's body and her father's body. She tries to keep them in the same state they were or the way she wishes they were by sealing them up in her home.
Hopefully, based on a greater understanding of the story achieved through this lesson, students will be able to go home and reflect on a deeper level Emily's predicament. Accordingly, students for homework will write a reflection discussing whether Emily is a victim or a predator. Students will consider Emily's relationship with her father and the social expectations of the Old South thrust upon her by family members and townspeople. Students will use information/text from both versions to support their ideas. They will also consider whether both works view her in the same way or is one interpretation more sympathetic than the other.