Describe the elements that make Emily mysterious.

Expert Answers
bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Examples of the mystery surrounding Miss Emily Grierson in the short story, "A Rose for Emily."

  • Her age is a mystery. The reader is only given a general idea (probably around 70 at the time of her death).
  • Emily is rarely seen outside her house, especially during the last 10 years of her life.
  • The reader is left to wonder about whatever happened to Homer Barron (until the end, at least).
  • Why did Homer and Miss Emily never marry?
  • Why did she refuse to bury her father, allowing him to remain in the house for days after his death?
  • What went on inside the curtained windows of her house?
M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Additionally, Emily's description as a "vision of the past", and her house as a "monument" of the Old South give the reader a sensation of nostalgia and loss which added up to her persona of mystery. We only get tidbits of information about her family, such as the fact that her father was authoritarian and controlled her life, and that her boyfriend, Homer, was disliked. We also wonder about that. How come she ended up with Homer? What inner fascination did Emily have with a man of that class? It is what we know that gives her that air of mystery, but what we do not know is left to a lot of scary thoughts.

epollock | Student


Faulkner makes Emily seem mysterious by keeping her at a distance. No personal acquaintances are mentioned as sources of information. When she is seen she seems intransigent and resolute, and she successfully ignores the importunities of the townsfolk. Later, when she is with Homer Barron, she is also seen at a distance. When the men sprinkle lime around her property and in the basement, she views them at a distance from an upstairs window. The ending is a surprise, definitely, even though the clues for the surprise have been carefully planted by Faulkner throughout the story.