With reference to William Faulkner's short story "A Rose for Emily," can some people love another so much that they simply cannot bear for that person to leave? Is it possible Emily was like this?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There can be a very fine, and dangerous line between love and obsession, and the protagonist of William Faulkner’s short story "A Rose for Emily" clearly falls into the latter category. She was sheltered during much of her life by an over-protective father (“. . .her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip . . .” whenever young men came to the house to meet Emily). Is it possible for somebody to love another person so deeply that they cannot bear for that person to leave? Absolutely. Most people have experienced a break-up in a relationship or loss of a loved one due to illness or accident. In fact, it is the rare and probably socially- and physically-isolated individual who has not loved another person so much that he or she could not bear for that person to leave. Having a hard time accepting the loss of a loved one, however, is not necessarily the same as being obsessed with that person to the point of kidnapping and murdering him or her. There is a word for such obsessive people: stalkers. And, stalkers are dangerous, known to violently attack the objects of their obsession.

Such is the case with Emily, the central figure in Faulkner’s story. Emily, as noted, has been sheltered to such a point that she has never experienced a relationship with a man. When a construction crew arrives in town to repave sidewalks, “in the summer after he father’s death,” Emily is attracted to the crew’s foreman, “. . .Homer Barron, a Yankee—a big, dark ready man, with a big voice and eyes lighter than his face.” For the first time in her life, Emily is not prevented by her father from pursuing a romantic relationship, and she is blind to Homer’s preference for spending time with men. When the construction is finished, however, and the crew departs town, Emily, it will be revealed in the story’s resolution, prevented Homer from leaving with his crew, apparently poisoning him for the purpose of doing so, and sleeping next to his decomposing remains for years afterward.

It is, as stated, possible to be deeply hurt by the departure, for whatever reason, of a loved one. People commit suicide over their despondency when confronted with a request or demand that a romantic relationship be terminated. And, they have been known to kill the other party over a deeply-psychotic fear that the now-former lover will be with somebody else. Most, the overwhelming majority, of people, however, do not go to such extremes. They hurt internally for some time, and then move on. It is a healing process that Faulkner’s troubled protagonist has never learned due to the sheltered existence she had led.

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A Rose for Emily

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