In William Faulkner's story "A Rose for Emily," why was it difficult for Emily to meet suitable men in her youth? 

In William Faulkner's story "A Rose for Emily," why was it difficult for Emily to meet suitable men in her youth?


Asked on by harbin24

3 Answers | Add Yours

lorrainecaplan's profile pic

Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I am going to take a guess here and assume you are asking about Miss Emily in "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner.  The answer to your question is found at the end of Section II. where we are told, "We remembered all the young men her father had driven away,..."(290).  There are a few inferences we can draw from that statement, one being that her father might not have considered any of the young men "suitable," and another being that he was selfish and wanted to keep Emily at home to take care of him. 

Another aspect that you might want to consider is the time during which this story takes place.  World War I was likely to have eliminated many eligible men, and the Depression is likely to have made many men financially "unsuitable," even after Miss Emily's father dies.

Additionally, given the setting of the story, a small Southern town, it is likely that there were few if any men whom either Emily or her father would have considered worthy of the daughter of a clearly wealthy man.

I hope this helps.  Good luck!

thetall's profile pic

thetall | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

The Griersons were a wealthy notable family and Emily was a Grierson, the daughter to one of the wealthy men. The Griersons were known for their uptight and somewhat cocky and antisocial nature. Coming from such a background Emily had a hard time building relations not only with men but also with women. The men around the place were regarded unworthy of making a husband for Emily: “None of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily and such. We had long thought of them as a tableau.” Emily grew of age but showed no signs of getting married or harboring relations that may lead to marriage “So when she got to be thirty and was still single, we were not pleased exactly, but vindicated.” Her father played a major role in the situation because he turned away all the men who were brave enough or considered themselves able to marry her daughter. “We remembered all the young men her father had driven away”.

rmhope's profile pic

rmhope | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

The impression given in the story, though no details are provided, is that Miss Emily's father, Mr. Grierson, was a very controlling man. One thing that contributed to Miss Emily's not finding a suitable husband was her family's social status, or at least the social status the Griersons wanted to project. The narrator states that the people of the town "believed that the Griersons held themselves a little too high for what they really were." Thus Mr. Grierson many have turned away suitors if he didn't think they were of the right social status: "None of the young men were quite good enough."

Second, Mr. Grierson may have simply intimidated young men from calling on Miss Emily. The narrator paints a picture, a "tableau," of Mr. Grierson standing inside the gate of his home, holding a whip, with Emily in the background at the front door of their home. That he is seen "clutching a horsewhip" indicates that others were frightened of him and that he dominated Emily completely. 

Third, it is also implied that Emily's own strangeness may have contributed to her lack of prospects. The narrator mentions a great-aunt of Emily's who "went completely crazy." Furthermore, the narrator observes, "even with insanity in the family she wouldn't have turned down all of her chances if they had really materialized." Insanity in the family is one thing, but in Emily herself it could be a deal-breaker. Latent or pending insanity in Emily, perceived by others as an odd personality, could have been part of what kept Emily's marital bliss from materializing. 

Although the story doesn't exactly say, the reasons Emily remained single into her thirties may have had to do with her high social class, her intimidating and controlling father, and her mental condition.


We’ve answered 317,557 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question