In "A Rose for Emily," why does the negro servant answer the door and then leave out the back door when the women arrive?I find this confusing because he has been with her for years and...

In "A Rose for Emily," why does the negro servant answer the door and then leave out the back door when the women arrive?

I find this confusing because he has been with her for years and now that she has died, is he just going to leave? Was he helping her?

Asked on by assiram123

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bmadnick's profile pic

bmadnick | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

I have always found it interesting that mention is made of Tobe leaving the house. You have to wonder how much and to what extent he knew about what was going on in the house. Although his place as a black servant would have him leaving through the back door, I've always thought that perhaps he had protected Emily's secret for all these years, and he didn't want to be around to answer questions when the townspeople found Homer's skeleton and Emily's gray hair on the pillow next to him. We aren't told anything about what Tobe's responsibilities were or how much he had to take care of Emily in her latter years, but I just find it interesting why his departure and the fact that he was never seen again was included in the story. I don't think Tobe did anything other than to protect Emily and her reputation, knowing what would happen to her if the town ever found out about Homer.
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sagetrieb's profile pic

sagetrieb | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

This is the traditional south, and the servant knows his place.  He is leaving, and black servants remain relegated to rear entrances and exits, a reminder  that they must defer to whites, and especially white women, who retain the privileges of the "front" in many aspects of life.

afoley24's profile pic

afoley24 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

It is important to remember that this story takes place in the South, post-Civil War. A very simplistic answer could be that Miss Emily kept Toby as her servant, even after the Civil War. Her death may have been his only way of escaping into freedom.

Another (debated) idea is that although Toby remained a faithful servant to Miss Emily all those years, he would be the only living soul to have witnessed the remaining years of Miss Emily's life and be able to answer many of the questions posed by the townsfolk: What happened to Homer? Did Miss Emily in fact poison him? Was she sleeping with his body? What else happened in this house?

We as the readers are well aware of how nosey the townsfolk are, especially the women; therefore, they would have pestered him for a response. His means of escaping with Miss Emily's secrets intact came when and only when she passed away.

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