I am doing a report on "A Rose for Emily."  I feel that her father molested her.  What are some clues that I could take from the story?

Expert Answers
Stephanie Gregg eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While no one can tell you definitively whether you are right or not, you can support the claim with evidence from the story.  I appreciate your effort to think critically about the text.

Since the townspeople remember "all the young men [Emily's] father had driven away,"  they almost understood her morbid reaction to his death, that "she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will."  Since he robbed her of her chance at a romantic relationship and possibly her innocence, it is not surprising that she would be angry at him for "leaving" her.  Consequently, she takes her revenge on her father out on her lover, Homer Barron. 

The conversation among the townsfolk bothers me:

And as soon as the old people said, "Poor Emily," the whispering began.  "Do you suppose it's really so?"  they said to one another.  "Of course it is.  What else could . . ." 

So what is so scandalous that we get the ellipses??  It's hard to believe that they're merely discussing the fact that Emily is dating a Northerner.  Could it be that the fact she is dating at all that brings up memories of other rumors about Emily?

I think you have a legitimate claim.  As long as you can support it, it is true.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Good observation. I am also in the opinion that there was no sexual abuse. However, I can see from certain quotes in the story what would lead you to believe in that there is an abnormal relationship going on.

For once, the co-dependent relationship both moral and physical that Emily has with her father has left her useless and blank after his death. Surely this leads to a sense of a master and servant relationship where here father dominated every aspect of her life.

Secondly, the father's insistance in that no man was ever good enough for Emily. Although we all know that this was part of the father's Southern staunch character, others may also look at it as a way for him to keep her for himself. We, of course, know that this is not the case.

Another possible hint that may lead to trying to understand their relationship is the way she guarded him, even after death, close to her life and still ruling her every move. When a relationship is abusive, many women fall completely under the beckoning calls of the abuser. Surely this is very similar to their relationship but still does not account for sexual abuse.

Great points to think about and you brought up a great focus for conversation!

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

    Emily's father certainly controlled and dominated her in the William Faulkner short story, "A Rose for Emily," but I see no evidence that he mistreated her sexually in any manner. We know little about the father except that he left Emily "a pauper," and that she refused to allow his body to be removed from the Grierson house until forced to do so. Her odd love does not necessarily mean it was sexual, however. The townspeople considered the family "high and mighty," but it is probably the portrait with her father that gives the reader the most insight: the father carrying a horsewhip in the foreground with his back to Emily, who was pictured in the background. Like most women of the time, she was subservient to him and probably followed his wishes. He probably discouraged her suitors, perhaps for personal reasons that were not to her best interest. But sexual impropriety? Probably not.

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A Rose for Emily

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