William Faulkner’s story “A Rose for Emily” portrays an unusual protagonist: Emily Grierson. The town of Jefferson followed the events of her life. To the town, Emily was an obligation and a tradition to be observed, whispered, and talked about.
Emily had faced death and refused to accept it. Her father had not prepared Emily for life by herself. Unfortunately for Emily, she had been her father’s companion. He refused to allow her to have a life of her own. A picture engrained in the minds of the townspeople was Emily’s father on his horse with his riding crop with Emily on the front porch in the background. She was never allowed to have suitors because her father drove them away.
When her father died, Emily was not prepared.
…it got around that the house was all that was left to her; and in a way, people were glad. At last they could pity Miss Emily. Being left alone, and a pauper, she had become humanized. Now she too would know the old thrill and the old despair of a penny more or less.
He left her only the house with nothing to support her. When the women came to comfort her as was the custom, she told them that her father was not dead. How could she face his death when she did not know what to do? Finally, after three days, the ministers and doctors forced her to let them take his body.
Now, she was truly alone. She became ill probably from the depression and grief. Mental illness was in her family; however, the town was unwilling to ascribe this impairment to Emily yet. When the town saw her again, she had cut her hair short which was certainly not the style of the day.
It was then Homer Barron came to town. Despite his announced homosexuality, Homer did court Emily. They were seen driving around in a carriage. The women began to be afraid that she was going to lose her good name by being alone with a Yankee.
The minister tried to talk to Emily. Her cousins came to pull her back from the throes of degradation. During this time, Emily bought some poison. She also ordered some men’s toiletries and night clothes with the initials of HB on them. Everyone thought that the two would marry; then, Homer Barron disappeared. There were always questions about the poison. Some people even thought that Emily might kill herself when Homer left town.
Of course, the townspeople actually have some idea as to what happened behind closed doors, but they were not for sure until the doors to the upstairs bedroom were opened. The narrator came in the room and conveyed what was found. It was then that the story changed from a sad story of forlorn love to a horror story. Faulkner would have been delighted.