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"A Rose for Miss Emily" by William Faulkner is set in the post-Civil War South and features one primary character, Miss Emily Grierson. Despite the fact that the war is over, Miss Emily is an old-world southern belle. She has been trained well by her father that people of gentility, and especially ladies, are never to deal with anything unpleasant. Not surprisingly, this becomes a source of conflict for everyone in this story--everyone except Miss Emily, that is.
Her father's requirements for Miss Emily's suitors were so stringent that no one was ever deemed good enough to marry her. Once her father dies, Miss Emily is so struck with grief, and perhaps something else, that she refuses to let the authorities take her father for several days after his death.
All of this leaves Miss Emily a very lonely woman, so when she finds Homer Barron, the townspeople are glad for her, at first, despite Homer Barron's occupation. He is what is known as a carpetbagger.
After the war, the South obviously had to be rebuilt, and companies came in droves from the North to take advantage of the work opportunities. These people became known as carpetbaggers and were scorned by southerners for taking advantage of their weakened economic condition. Despite that, these workers were essential in rebuilding the war-torn South.
Miss Emily's town hires a company to rebuild its sidewalks, and Homer Barron's company gets the job. He is the foreman of the company, and his job is to oversee the project. Of course he is a Yankee, which immediately makes him a suspicious character. He is also
a big, dark, ready man, with a big voice and eyes lighter than his face. The little boys would follow in groups to hear him cuss the riggers, and the riggers singing in time to the rise and fall of picks. Pretty soon he knew everybody in town. Whenever you heard a lot of laughing anywhere about the square, Homer Barron would be in the center of the group.
Clearly Homer Barron is an affable man, and soon he and Miss Emily are spotted around town on Sunday afternoons, riding in a hired buggy.
Soon, though, the talk changes, and the gossip claims that she is a "fallen woman." Everyone not only pities her but is morally outraged at what seems to be her illicit affair with Homer Barron--a Yankee carpetbagger. It is a disgraceful situation, but Miss Emily still earns their pity because Homer Barron has proclaimed that he is not a "marrying man."
One day Miss Emily buys some arsenic and everyone assumes she is going to commit suicide. No one stops her. Soon she also buys a toilet set (comb, brush, mirror) with H.B. engraved on them, as well as a set of clothing, including a nightshirt. Everyone assumes the couple is getting married, but no one sees Homer Barron again.
Once Miss Emily dies, people enter her house. All we know for sure is that Homer Barron is dead and his body has been kept in an upstairs bedroom of Miss Emily's house. His body, dressed in a nightshirt, has decomposed into the bed. Nearby is the clothing and toilet set Miss Emily bought for him.
Though the bed is covered with dust now, it is evident to the townspeople who have come to gawk that at one time Homer Barron had lain on his side, as if engaged in a lover's embrace. Even more disturbing to them is what they found on the other side of the bed. The pillow contained a long, silver hair, and it is evident that Miss Emily had lain in her dead lover's embrace, at least for some time.
She poisoned him so he would not leave her.
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