how does it prepare us for the ending
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The atmosphere in A Rose for Emily is one of nonchalance. Emily is isolated, and yet no one cares about the fact that she's isolated........ they only want their own issues addressed. And those isues are related in a general way; everything is cited as "we," the town is its own entity.
The reaction of the town to Emily prepares us for the ending because we already know that the townspeople have no vested interest in this lonely old woman. On the other hand, the reader is able to see a bit of regret......... unfortunately, the regret is overshadowed by curiousity. The whole dead body/ sliver hair/ pillow indentation thing presents the people with a visual....... proof that life did once exist in the old house.
A Rose for Emily