In William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," whose corpse was lying on the bed when the townspeople entered the locked room in Miss Emily's home after her funeral?

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Stephen Holliday | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Faulkner weaves several details and incidents into "A Rose for Emily" that lead us to conclude the mouldering corpse found in one of Miss Emily's bedrooms can only be that of Homer Baron, the northerner who comes to the town to oversee the building of some sidewalks and who, for awhile, courts Miss Emily.

First, even though Homer Baron appears to court Miss Emily, Faulkner makes it clear that Baron

. . . liked men, and it was known that he drank with the younger men in the Elks Club--that he was not a marrying man.

This observation vaguely hints that Baron may be homosexual, and even if he is not, he is clearly not interested in marrying Miss Emily.  Given the fact that Miss Emily, as a young woman, was denied the opportunity to have a normal married life by her selfish father, we must wonder how Miss Emily would feel if she were to find out Baron's courtship was merely for show and not for romantic reasons.  And in the same section in which Faulkner discusses Baron's fondness for men, we learn that Miss Emily inexplicably buys arsenic, a very strong poison, for "rats."  At this point, we may ask ourselves, does Miss Emily want to kill rats or a particular "rat."

More important, however, we learn 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 we learned that she had bought a complete outfit of men's clothing, including a nightshirt. . . .

Here, we can't help but conclude that there are signs of an impending marriage between Miss Emily and Homer Baron, and yet we know that Baron is not "a marrying man," and it's difficult not to conclude that Miss Emily is either going to be bitterly disappointed or that something is going on that we cannot quite understand yet.

The incident in which we learn that a horrible odor permeates Miss Emily's house and yard might, along with the purchase of arsenic, might make us suspect that something unusual--not just the killing of rats--has taken place at Miss Emily's home.

Another incident that foreshadows the conclusion is that, when Homer Baron is finished with his job, he apparently leaves town, but "within three days Homer Baron was back in town."  Not only is Baron back, but the last anyone sees of him is when "a neighbor saw the Negro man (Toby, Emily's servant) admit him at the kitchen door at dusk one evening."  This in itself is highly unusual because, in this society and time, an unmarried man would not call upon a lady at night and through the back door of the house.

When the townspeople break into the bedroom and discover the corpse, they also find "the man's toilet things backed with tarnished silver, silver so tarnished that the monogram was obscured."  This discovery, of course, is the toilet set Miss Emily purchased years ago, with the monogram of "H. B.," and it's clear that the corpse can only be that of Homer Baron.



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