"A Rose for Emily" Plot, Setting, Characterization, Summary

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“A Rose for Emily” and “The Cask of Amontillado”


The most obvious plot similarity between William Faulkner’s short story, “A Rose for Emily,” and Edgar Allan Poe’s story, “The Cask of Amontillado,” is that they are both, to some degree, about murder. “A Rose for Emily” culminates in the discovery of a man’s dead body. Although not explicitly stated, Faulkner implies that Emily Grierson, the story’s mysterious title character, has poisoned the man with arsenic. “The Cask of Amontillado” also ends in death, when the narrator seals his acquaintance, Fortunato, in the wall of the narrator’s wine crypt. This similarity is multifaceted, and there are further similarities and differences within it.

Although both stories end with a definite expression that a character has died, the two begin very differently. In “A Rose for Emily,” the discovery of Homer Barron’s dead body is something of a plot twist. Though not entirely unexpected given Miss Emily’s purchase of arsenic and Homer Barron’s failure to re-emerge from Miss Emily’s house, there is no overt indication prior to the last few paragraphs of the story that Miss Emily murdered him. By contrast, it is clear from the very first paragraph of “The Cask of Amontillado” that Montresor, the narrator, intends to kill or at least to in some way harm Fortunato: “AT LENGTH I would be avenged; this was a point definitively settled -- but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish, but punish with impunity” (Poe).

The fact that Montresor never discloses the specific reason for which he would be avenged represents a deeper similarity between the two murder plots. Just as Montresor’s specific reasons for killing Fortunato remain mysterious, Miss Emily’s reasons for killing Homer Barron are never explicitly stated. Although it is clear that Montresor’s motive is related to insult and Miss Emily’s motive is related to love, no futher detail can be...