Miss Emily Grierson in "A Rose for Emily" Essay

“A Rose for Emily” is a short story written by William Faulkner. The narrator, who appears to be speaking for the townspeople, tells the story in first person. The reader learns about the main character, Miss Emily Grierson, through a re-telling of moments of her life. This discussion is an analysis of her character. Emily came from a well-respected wealthy family which the town people refer to as “the high and mighty Griersons” (Faulkner, 1931, p. 31) and “representatives of those august names” (Faulkner, 1931, p. 30). They lived in a lavish home, in an upper-class neighborhood.

It is understood that they once owned slaves. Even in Emily’s old age; she had a loyal manservant named Toby. It is quite possible that Emily was raised solely by her father because her mother is never mentioned. Emily and her father were extremely close. No man was ever good enough for his precious daughter; he had driven away any man interested in his Emily. In fact, the picture of “Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door” (Faulkner, 1931, p. 2) would forever be etched in the townspeople’s mind. It is apparent that mental illness runs in the family as the townspeople reflect “…old lady Wyatt, her great-aunt, had gone completely crazy at last” and “with insanity in the family” (Faulkner, 1931, p. 32). This is a foreshadowing of what is to later become of Miss Emily. Emily begins to show signs of mental instability when her father dies. For three days she goes about her business as usual and tells everyone that her father is not dead. Finally the police are called and Emily breaks down and comes to term with her father’s death.

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Now, except for Toby, Emily is left alone in the home. Strangely, even death, her father has control over Emily; he has left her with nothing but the house in his will. However, Emily is so well respected and pitied that the mayor, Colonel Sartoris, takes care of her by making up a story that her father had given the town a loan and therefore Emily will never need to pay taxes as repayment of that loan. The Grierson home is symbolic of Emily. It was once beautiful and well decorated, appreciated by all. After her father dies, just as Emily, the home becomes very run down.

It is now described as “an eyesore among eyesores” (Faulkner, 1931, p. 30). Similarly, Emily was once described as a young thin beauty. Now, she too is described as an eyesore; a short fat physically disabled woman. When Emily is denied marriage by her lover, Homer Barron, she once again shows signs of mental illness. She purchases arsenic and refuses to tell the clerk what it is for; she orders a silver engraved toilet seat and buys men’s clothing. Emily becomes agoraphobic and she is not seen leaving her home for more than six months.

Emily’s standing in the town’s hierarchy is once again displayed when no one questions the sudden disappearance of Homer. Logic would say that something was wrong. Her strange behavior, especially the purchase of arsenic, coupled with the fact that Homer was seen entering the home but never seen leaving, would lead most to believe that Homer’s life was in danger. Instead, they make excuses for the foul odor coming from her home. They blame the manservant, saying that he is a poor cook or a poor housekeeper.

They never confront Emily; instead, they take care of it by covering up her wrong doing with lime. Although Emily’s strange behavior continues, hiding in her home for several years at a time, the townspeople still trust her with their children. The townspeople seem to feel proud to be a part of Emily’s life as they send their daughters to her art lessons “…with the same regularity and the in the same spirit that they were sent to church on Sundays…” (Faulkner, 1931, p. 34). For the remainder of Emily’s life the townspeople show pity and respect for her as the last distinguished member of their town.

When Emily dies, the entire town goes to her elaborate funeral. Even in her death, she is shown a great deal of respect. Although the townspeople suspect Homer may be dead in the upstairs room, “they waited until Miss Emily was decently in the ground before they opened it” (Faulkner, 1931, p. 35). Once they discover Homer’s body and realized Miss Emily had been lying next to him all these years, they simply stood there and felt love and compassion for poor Emily; a woman who had loved a man so greatly that she killed him before he could leave her.

Miss Emily Grierson was an infamous member of her town. She represented the noblemen of her time and the town loved her for it. Emily became insane and a murderer, and yet the town did not turn their backs on her. Instead, they showed her love and compassion, hence the title of the story, “A Rose for Emily. ” Reference Kennedy, X. J. , & Gioia, D. (2010). Literature: An introduction to fiction, poetry, drama, and writing (6th ed. ). Boston: Longman.


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