How does Tobe's silence contrast with the chatter of the town, and what is that silence's impact in "A Rose for Emily"?

Expert Answers
scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Great question!  Tobe is so silent in "A Rose for Emily" that Faulkner rarely refers to him by his given name throughout the story.  The servant is truly loyal to Miss Emily, even though his life within the Grierson house could not have been pleasant.  At the story's end, Tobe lets in the nosey townspeople and then leaves the house for good.  He does not stay behind to listen to or watch the town's reaction to the macabre sight in Miss Emily's room, and he does not offer any explanation or gossip.  He simply lets the truth die with Miss Emily.

In contrast, the town is constantly abuzz regarding Miss Emily's affairs--from her strange behavior/appearance following her father's death to her relationship with Homer Barron, they involve themselves in her life.  They spread information to her relatives, send aldermen to her house, and gossip about her house's smell.  But through it all, no one from the town does anything to get to know Miss Emily or truly to help her.

One more reason for Tobe's silence is that Miss Emily and her household represent the Old South, and Tobe as a black manservant is part of that tradition.  No one from the town seems to expect Tobe to have a point of view; instead, they see him as another part of the Grierson tradition.  Tobe also contributes to that stereotype by continuing to stay with Miss Emily, even after she probably couldn't afford to pay him much and by being at her beck and call.

Read the study guide:
A Rose for Emily

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question