Describe Emily's character qualities in "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner.

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" is a masterful short story.  Miss Emily Grierson, the protagonist, becomes an icon and celebrity in her home town of Jefferson, Mississippi.  She was a relic from the Old South when ladies were cherished and protected. 

Emily had been protected by her father while he was alive.  Thinking that no man was good enough for her, he drove all her gentleman callers away. When her father died, Emily was over thirty years old  and discovered that he had left her nothing except the house. Unable to let her father go, she would not let them take her father for three days after he died.   

The townspeople knew there had been insanity in the family, but they would not admit that anything was really wrong with Emily. Unfortunately for Emily, her father had left her penniless;  however, Emily had the strength to survive. Of course, she still had Tobe the black servant to help her. 

Two years after her father died, her fiancee deserted her.  Each time one of these tragedies happened to Emily, she would retreat inside her house and not be seen for several months. 

When next Emily was seen, Homer Barron had come to town to help with the construction of the town's sidewalks.  Homer was a yankee and a self-described homosexual.  Still, every Sunday, he and Emily would go for buggy rides. Gossip ran rampant through the town: what were they doing on those buggy rides?

She carried her head high enough--even when we believed that she was fallen. It was as if she demanded more than ever the recognition of her dignity as the last Grierson...

Insinuating that there was more going on than just buggy rides did not bother EmilyShe was above all of that.   Her cousins came, and they were convinced that Emily and Homer were going to be married.

Homer left for a while. When he was gone, Emily seemed to prepare for the wedding.

We learned that Miss Emily had been to the jeweler's and ordered a man's toilet set in silver, with the letters H. B. on each piece. Two days later she had bought a complete outfit of men's clothing, including a nightshirt.

Surprisingly, Emily buys arsenic and refuses to tell why she needed it. No one needed to know Emily's business. Homer was seen going in the back door of Emily's house and was never seen again.

Next, the neighbors complain about a terrible odor coming from Emily's house. The men of the town sneak around and put lime around her house to get rid of the smell. Emily watches them do it from an upstairs window.

Again, Emily is not seen for a long time.  The new generation of council men come to collect the taxes from her. She is now completely gray haired and heavy. She does not offer the men seats nor does she admit that she owes taxes. Emily refers them to Colonel Satoris who has been dead for several years. 

Emily dies in a downstairs chair at the age of 74.  The cousins bury her two days later.  After the funeral, Tobe lets the women into the house and goes out the back door never to be seen again. The women are there to snoop.  They break down the upstairs bedroom door.  There they find a man's skeleton dressed in a nightshirt. On the pillow next to him is one gray hair.

Emily Grierson found a way to keep her man.  Her father prevented her happiness while he was alive, but how does she survive once he is gone?  Secretive, clever, and insane--those were the qualities that kept Miss Emily going.


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