Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
As a child, Miss Emily Grierson had been cut off from most social contact and all courtship by her father. When he dies, she refuses to acknowledge his death for three days. After the townspeople intervene and bury her father, Emily is further isolated by a mysterious illness, possibly a mental breakdown.
Homer Barron’s crew comes to town to build sidewalks, and Emily is seen with him. He tells his drinking buddies that he is not the marrying kind. The townspeople consider their relationship improper because of differences in values, social class, and regional background. Emily buys arsenic and refuses to say why. The ladies in town convince the Baptist minister to confront Emily and attempt to persuade her to break off the relationship. When he refuses to discuss their conversation or to try again to persuade Miss Emily, his wife writes to Emily’s Alabama cousins. They come to Jefferson, but the townspeople find them even more haughty and disagreeable than Miss Emily. The cousins leave town.
Emily buys a men’s silver toiletry set, and the townspeople assume marriage is imminent. Homer is seen entering the house at dusk one day, but is never seen again. Shortly afterward, complaints about the odor emanating from her house lead Jefferson’s aldermen to surreptitiously spread lime around her yard, rather than confront Emily, but they discover her openly watching them from a window of her home.
Miss Emily’s servant, Tobe,...
(The entire section is 523 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Although an unnamed citizen of the small town of Jefferson, in Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, tells the story of the aristocratic Miss Emily Grierson in a complicated manner, shifting back and forth in time without trying to make clear transitions, the story line itself is quite simple. Miss Emily’s father dies when she is a little more than thirty, in about 1882. For three days she prevents his burial, refusing to accept his death. He had driven off all of her suitors; now she is alone, a spinster, in a large house.
In the summer after the death of her father, Miss Emily meets Homer Barron, the Yankee foreman of a crew contracted to pave the sidewalks of Jefferson. They appear on the streets in a fancy buggy, provoking gossip and resentment. Two female cousins come to town from Alabama to attempt to persuade Miss Emily to behave in a more respectable manner. Emily buys an outfit of man’s clothes and a silver toilet set. To avoid the cousins, Homer leaves town. Miss Emily buys rat poison from the druggist. The cousins leave. Homer returns; he is never seen again.
A foul odor emanates from Miss Emily’s house. After midnight, four citizens, responding to complaints made by neighbors to Judge Stevens, the mayor, stealthily spread lime around the house and in her cellar. In a week or so, the smell goes away.
In 1894, Colonel Sartoris, the mayor, remits Miss Emily’s taxes. For about six or seven years, while in her forties,...
(The entire section is 417 words.)
Summary and Analysis
Summary and Analysis Section I
Narrator: Never named, the narrator of the story is a member of the town and has known Miss Emily much of her life. Some critics have suggested that the narrator is the town itself.
Miss Emily Grierson: The protagonist of the story, Miss Emily, as she is known and referred to by everyone, is the town matriarch.
Colonel Sartoris: In 1894, Colonel Sartoris, who was then the mayor of the town, remitted Miss Emily’s taxes, for unknown reasons, “in perpetuity.”
Tobe: A Negro “manservant” of Miss Emily’s, Tobe is the only person who has entered Miss Emily’s house for years.
“A Rose for Emily” begins with the death of Miss Emily Grierson, respectfully referred to by the nameless narrator of the story, as well as by the people of Jefferson—the town in which the story takes place—as Miss Emily. The narrator of the story tells how the whole town attended Miss Emily’s funeral—the men, out of respect for a “fallen monument,” and the women “out of curiosity to see the inside of her house.” The narrator goes on to describe Miss Emily’s “big, squarish frame house that had once been white” but had become, by the time of her death, “an eyesore among eyesores.” In the years leading up to Miss Emily’s death, only Miss Emily’s Negro manservant, whom will be later identified as Tobe, had seen the inside of the house, which had once been considered one of the nicest houses situated on one of the most select streets in the town. Over the years, however, the house had grown into disrepair, and garages and cotton gins had been built up around the street, adding to its garishness.
Miss Emily had grown to become a town legend by the time of her death. In 1894, the then mayor Colonel Sartoris remitted Miss Emily’s taxes “in perpetuity” for reasons never made clear. But over time, as a new generation of civic leaders arose, the town began to question Miss Emily’s privileged status. After the new mayor was unsuccessful in collecting taxes from her through the mail, the Board of Alderman sent a deputation to her house to meet with her. Miss Emily, “a small, fat woman in black,” met them at the door, and she told them that she had no taxes in Jefferson. “Colonel Sartoris explained it to me,” she told the group in a voice that “was dry and cold.” When the deputation continued to press Miss Emily, she responded by saying in a matter-of-fact tone, “See Colonel Sartoris,” even though the Colonel had been dead almost ten years.
The first section of “A Rose for Emily” concludes with Miss Emily asking Tobe to “[s]how these gentlemen out.”
“A Rose for Emily” is one of William Faulkner’s masterpieces of short fiction and is considered one of the great short stories in American literature. Told from the point of view of a nameless narrator and a longtime member of Jefferson, the town in which the story takes place, “A Rose for Emily” opens with the death of Miss Emily Grierson and proceeds to tell the story of her life in the years leading up to her death.
Considered one of the great writers of the twentieth century, Faulkner left behind a large body of work that effectively told the story of the American South, from the years following the Civil War to the Depression of 1929. More...
(The entire section is 1400 words.)
Summary and Analysis Section II
Judge Stevens: Eighty-year-old Judge Stevens is approached by townspeople about the smell on Miss Emily’s property.
Old Lady Wyatt: Miss Emily’s great-aunt, Old Lady Wyatt, had become senile and was remembered by the townspeople.
Miss Emily sends the deputation away, just as she had sent a similar party away thirty years earlier when neighbors had begun to complain to the town about a “smell” that had risen from Miss Emily’s property. The smell was noticed two years after Miss Emily’s father’s death, and a short time after Miss Emily’s “sweetheart went away.”
Eighty-year-old Judge Stevens was approached by...
(The entire section is 784 words.)
Summary and Analysis Section III
Homer Barron: Miss Emily’s boyfriend who is described as a “big, dark, ready man, with a big voice and eyes lighter than his face.” A Northerner, he has come south to Jefferson as a foreman helping to pave the sidewalks.
The Druggist: Miss Emily orders the local druggist to sell her arsenic, even though she refused to tell him what the poison is for.
After her father’s death, Miss Emily disappeared from public site for a long time, and when she reemerged, Jefferson had just started paving its sidewalks. Homer Barron, a “Yankee,” is a foreman for one of the crews working on the contract, and soon he would be seen by the town...
(The entire section is 392 words.)
Summary and Analysis Section IV
Miss Emily’s Cousins: At the request of the Baptist minister’s wife, cousins from Alabama arrive and move in with Miss Emily, presumably to help her out.
After Miss Emily had requested rat poison from the druggist, the town assumed that she was planning her own suicide. The facts of her relationship with Homer Barron, a Northerner, was too great a disgrace in the town’s eyes, and suicide seemed a viable option. Although Miss Emily and Homer were seen regularly on Sunday afternoons, the town was uncertain that Miss Emily would be able to convince Barron, who admitted that he was “not a marrying man,” to marry her, and Miss Emily could not...
(The entire section is 604 words.)
Summary and Analysis Section V
The Town Ladies: A contingent of women from the town are the first to arrive at Miss Emily’s following her death, and they are the last to see Tobe.
When news of Miss Emily’s death spreads, a group of ladies from the town arrives at Miss Emily’s door and is briefly greeted by Tobe, who lets them in and immediately proceeds to walk out the back door, never to be seen again. A funeral is held two days later, with several of the men wearing their newly brushed Confederate uniforms.
After Miss Emily was placed “decently in the ground,” a room above the stairs at Miss Emily’s, which has not been opened for years, is forced open. An...
(The entire section is 671 words.)