Describe the Grierson family in William Faulkner's short story "A Rose for Emily."

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are two Griersons in "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner: Emily and her father. Together they form a rather unique little family.

Everyone in town calls Emily Grierson "Miss Emily," and, since the story is narrated by a narrator who lives in town, that is how the readers come to know her, as well. She is the eccentric daughter of a proud, aristocratic Southern man who shaped the way she thinks and lives and has a great-aunt who went crazy.  None of the men who want to court the young Miss Emily are good enough, so she lives most of her life alone, doing eccentric things to please herself and earn some money. When her father dies, she is in denial and keeps his body for several days, perhaps out of love but probably also because she is angry that he never allowed her to find love.

Later she is involved in a scandalous relationship with a carpetbagger from the North, Homer Barron. He appears to live with her when he is in town, but when she fears he might be trying to leave her, the clues all suggest that Miss Emily poisons him. In any case, Barron disappears. After Miss Emily's death, the townspeople discover Homer Baron's body in an bed upstairs. The evidence suggests that Miss Emily had, at least sometimes, slept next to him. 

Emily's father, though barely mentioned and never given a name in the story, has a tremendous impact on his daughter's life. He was a true, Old South aristocrat who believed no man was a suitable match for his daughter. The townspeople "believed that the Griersons held themselves a little too high for what they really were," and the evidence suggests the townspeople were right. When Miss Emily's father died, all he left her was the house. 

The only other members of the Grierson family are three cousins who come to convince Miss Emily how shameful her relationship with Barron is. They are not successful and do not stay long (apparently Miss Emily puts them right in their place), and everyone is relieved, for they are ‘‘even more Grierson than Miss Emily had ever been.”

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A Rose for Emily

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