A Rose for Emily


“A Rose for Emily”, by William Faulkner, begins and ends with the death of Miss Emily Grierson, the main character of the story. In the story William Faulkner uses characterization to reveal the character of Miss Emily. Faulkner divided the story “into five sections, the first and last section having to do with the present, and the now of the narration, with the three middle sections detailing the past” (Davis 35). Faulkner expresses the content of Miss Emily’s character through physical description, through her actions, words, and feelings, through the narrator’s direct comments about her, and through the actions, words, and feelings of other characters. Faulkner best uses characterization to examine the theme of the story, we are the products of our environment. Miss Emily lives for many years as a recluse, as a result of her surroundings. In the story the narrator comments that “no one save an old man-servant–a combined gardener and cook–had seen [the house] in at least ten years” (Faulkner 217). Miss Emily’s father is partly to blame for her life as a recluse. Faulkner’s narrator says that, “We remembered all the young men her father had driven away” (221). Critic Donald Akers notes that: In the story, Emily’s overprotective, overbearing father denies her a normal relationship with the opposite sex by chasing away any potential mates. Because her father is the only man with whom she has had a close relationship, she denies his death and keeps his corpse in her house until she breaks down three days later when the doctors insist she let them take the body. (2) Her father robs her from many of life’s necessities. She misses out on having friends, being a normal woman, and her ability to be happy. Emily is so used to having her father be there for her, she figures that by keeping his body he can still be part of her life. Miss Emily may have lived in seclusion, but her heart longed for companionship. The summer after her father’s death, the town brought in a construction company to begin paving the sidewalks. The foreman of the company was Homer Barron. The town then begins to see him and Miss Emily on Sunday afternoons together. Michael L. Burduck, of The University of Mississippi Studies in English, notes in his article that “Faulkner himself sheds interesting light on this matter when he describes Miss Emily as a woman ‘that just wanted to be loved and to love and to have a husband and a family’” (210). It is later gossiped that Miss Emily had bought arsenic, and the town all said, “She will kill herself”(Faulkner 223). Later it was gossiped that she had bought a man’s toilet set and men’s clothing and the town was glad because they thought that the two either were or were getting married. Emily now feels that “without a husband, her life will have no meaning” (“A Rose for Emily 1). It is noted by Daniel Akers that “Homer himself may not exactly be enthusiastic about marrying Emily. However, it is left to the reader to imagine the exact circumstances leading to Homer’s denouement. Finally, Emily takes the offensive by poisoning Homer so he can’t abandon her” (3). Miss Emily’s desire for love and companionship drives her to murder Homer Baron with arsenic poison that was bought to be used for rats. Critic Michael L. Burduck says: Our narrator knows that Emily purchased poison, ostensibly to kill “rats”. One slang use of the term “rat” applies to a man who has cheated on his lover. Perhaps Faulkner’s tale-teller suspects that Emily feared that Homer would not remain faithful to her. In order to “keep” Homer by her side, Emily poisoned him. (210) She knew her true intentions when she bought the arsenic poison, but Emily did what “she could to retain Homer’s companionship and insure that he would not give her up for another woman” (Burduck 210). After Homer’s disappearance the front door was not used again, except for a period of six to seven years when she gave china-painting lessons. After Homer’s disappearance Emily is seen now and then in the windows of her house. After the death of her father and the disappearance of