What is Emily and Homer Barron's relationship in Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily"? What happens to Homer eventually?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There is a certain ambiguity to the relationship between Miss Emily Grierson and Homer Barron, she of an old Southern aristocratic family, he "a Yankee...a big, dark, ready man, with a big voice and eyes lighter than his face." At first, the townspeople were "glad" that Miss Emily now has an "interest"; however the ladies observe that no Grierson would seriously consider a "Northerner, a day laborer." Further, older residents think the relatives should be notified since Emily seems to forget noblesse oblige.

The ideas of class distinction and the continuing animosity toward the "Yankees" by the Old South are also suggested here. In addition, their riding on Sunday afternoon in a "yellow-wheeled" buggy with "a matched team of bays" juxtaposes images of evil [yellow is used in literature to symbolize evil and corruption] with the aristocracy [the wealthy classes stylized their carriage horses].

Again, there is ambiguity about what transpires between Homer and Miss Emily; however, after his construction work is finished, he "was gone." Apparently, he simply left; however, after three days, he returned and was seen being admitted at the kitchen door by Emily's servant, "the Negro man....And that was the last we saw of Homer Barron." So, when Emily purchases arsenic, the townspeople begin again to talk because Emily does not appear on the streets, either, for a time. There is also a malodorous smell emanating from Emily's house, a odor that the townspeople understand later to have come from the corpse of Homer which has lain on the bed in which Emily has lain with the "long strand of iron-gray hair" as evidence.