“A Rose for Emily” is a short story written by the famous American author, William Faulkner that was published in April of 1930. The story took place in Faulkner’s fictional city, Jefferson, Mississippi (Delbanco and Cheuse pg 482). The main character, Emily Grierson, lived a sad and lonely life. The Grierson’s were a very well known and prestigious family in town. Emily was raised by her overprotective sheltering father which led to her inability to sustain healthy relationships. Upon the death of her father, Emily was in denial for three days until she was forced to acknowledge his death and bury him. According to her father no man was good enough for her, thus she was alone. The only family support Emily owned was that of her cousins who were mainly interested in what she was hiding. As time passed, Emily’s sanity was dwindling. She murdered the man that she wanted to marry for fear that she would lose him. She kept his corpse in her bedroom and slept beside him until her death. The love represented in this short story is “ugly” love due to Emily’s inability to maintain a normal relationship and her grotesque idea’s to hold on to those that she supposedly loved.
The story begins with the death and funeral of Emily Grierson. The townspeople went to the service to pay their respects to the family and to satisfy their curiosities. The townspeople remembered the Grierson house to be a big beautiful white antebellum home but as years passed and Emily’s sanity diminished the house decayed around the only two people that had lived there for many years-Emily and her manservant.
The Grierson family was stricken with an insanity trait. Unfortunately, this evil trait was passed down to Emily. The relationship that she had with her father enabled this trait to flourish when she become an adult. Colonel Sartoris, her father, believed “None of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily and such" (Faulkner, pg 324). Thus, Emily was never allowed to leave the house with a man and remained single until the age of thirty when her father passed away. Emily’s insanity was exhibited even as a young woman by her inability to cope with her fathers death. She refused to believe that he was dead for three and kept his dead body in the house. The authorities were sent to the house and forced Emily to have her father buried. Emily’s insanity only worsened after her fathers death and being left alone. Finally after some time passed Emily was able to get out and about. She was seen with a construction worker from town named Homer Barron. The townspeople were amazed to see them together. They never thought a Grierson would stoop to the level of a manual laborer. After a year of courting, the townspeople took this matter into their own hands. They contacted the only family that Emily had left to come for a visit to check up on her and the relationship that she had with Homer. After staying with Emily for a week they were only disappointed. Homer left town but returned when Emily’s cousins returned home. However, the cousins were under the impression that Homer and Emily were going to be married. This assumption was made because Emily had been to see a jeweler in town and purchased men’s clothing that included a nightshirt and a toilet seat set in silver with the initials H.B. engraved on it. However, what they did not know was that she had also been to the local druggist and purchased arsenic.
Homer’s return marked another rise in the progression of Emily’s insanity. Homer was never seen again by the townspeople and Emily did not leave her house again. She sent her manservant to town to buy the things that she needed. This behavior continued for many years. Emily was only seen by the townspeople a few times before her death. One of those times was the night that four men went to her house to investigate a horrible stench. They saw her through the window as she sat motionless while they sprinkled lime around her house to resolve the foul odor. The only other times that she was seen by others was when she taught painting lessons to children in her studio. That only lasted a few years and Emily grew grayer and grayer as time progressed. She passed away at seventy fours years old. When the townspeople learned of her death they went to her home and was greeted by the old faithful manservant. However, as the townspeople entered the house he quickly exited through the back door and was never seen or heard from again.
After Emily’s funeral, the townspeople were eager to satisfy their curiosities. They were aware of a room that no one had entered in forty years. When they reached the dusty old room they discovered a man’s suit and tie, shirt, shoes and a silver toilet seat that had the initials H.B. engraved on it. As they glanced around the room, “The man himself lay in bed" (Faulkner, pg 327). The corpse of Homer Barron lay in bed underneath a rotting nightshirt. They also noticed that the pillow beside him had an indention of a head. As they looked closer they found a long strand of gray hair on the pillow that belonged to Emily.
Emily’s sanity was scarce even as a young woman. Besides her heredity, Emily’s father was part of the downfall of her sanity. She was unable to cope with her fathers death and her relationship with Homer was completely inappropriate. She murdered the man she wanted to marry out of fear that he would leave her. Then she slept with his corpse until her death which was many years later. This short story is a prime example of “ugly” love. It is shameful that the faithful manservant lived with Emily throughout her crazy, lonely life and at the same time sacrificing his own life. When he left the house that day he was old and gray but he took with him every secret within the walls of that old antebellum home.
Delbanco, Nicholas and Cheus, Alan. “Literature Craft and Voice”, second edition. Sept 30, 2013. Pages 323-327 and 482.