The two characters contrast in regards to their life styles and reasons for their actions. Miss Emily is a southern belle who has been put on a pedestal by her father. No suitor was good enough for her. In her youth she is a slim woman. She lives in a wealthy home and seems to have it all. After her father dies she has to come to terms with having no money and a large isolated home.
When a road crew comes to town she finds hope for love and a retreat from her loneliness in a man named Homer. After it appears that he is going to leave her, she poisons him. She grows old with his corpse in her home in her bed.
Matt is a father who has a wonderful son who falls in love with a woman. The woman is separated from her husband and she has children. Matt's son is young and preparing to go away to college. Richard, the woman's husband, kills Matt's son.
Matt becomes obsessed with the need to avenge his son's death. He is a middle class man who does not want to rely on a justice system that he feels will let his son's murder only serve a sentence for the son's murder. The obsession gets worse until he and another man take Richard to a secret place. He kills him, buries him, and returns to his normal life. Once his vengeance has been served he shares the secret with his wife. The deed is done.
In a way both characters are seeking revenge. Miss Emily may have been jilted by Homer and murders him out of revenge, and Matt murders Richard out of revenge. Both characters have a strong need and are determined to do what must be done. Miss Emily goes to the druggist to buy arsenic and Matt buys a gun. Both murders are premeditated.