In "A Rose For Emily," what do the appearance of the upstairs room in the Grierson house and the iron-gray hair on the pillow indicate?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Near the middle of the narrative of "A Rose for Emily," there is the definition of the sections of the story:

Thus she passed from generation to generation--dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse.

The final section in which the single grey hair lies on a pillow indicates that all of these qualities of Emily Grierson have existed.

  • Emily has preserved her lover Homer, a man she has cherished and held dear. She has attempted to keep him with her in death as she could not in life.
  • Miss Emily Grierson has been an inescapable part of the community--"a fallen monument." She makes sure that Homer, too, cannot escape; she keeps him with her.
  • Miss Emily has had to be reminded by her kinfolk of her noblesse oblige. But she is impervious to this obligation, as she captures Homer. 
  • Miss Emily Grierson became tranquil, free from conflict and disturbance in the end as she lay with Homer.
  • But she has been perverse in the way she has kept Homer Barron with her—she has killed him and kept his corpse.

The iron-gray hair upon the pillow next to the decayed Homer Barron indicates that Emily has slept next to Homer's body. Having been denied so much in her life, Emily Grierson has grasped what she can from death. 

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Well, there are many indications. First, the scene looked as if the room had been prepared for a romantic honeymoon. In true Southern Gothic style, the place was also run down, and the flowers and all the things that once may have been beautifully set up and once fresh and colorful had seen time, dust, and abandonment go by. Hence, the scene was a morbid one where we can picture a very impressive scenario with dead flowers, dusty curtains, abandoned draperies and linen, the smell of dampness and humidity, and a huge mess. That, in itself would have been terrifying and disturbing enough.

Yet, as the story goes, on the bed there was the indentation of a head that had been sleeping there, and from it came that iron-gray here. Yet, they had made the connection there and then that Emily had been sleeping with the corpse of Homer Barron because, next to that pillowed, under the nightshirt she had been seen shopping for him, and next to the crystal and silver man toilet set, there was the rotten remains of Homer in the room.

Hence, as you can imagine, the idea of necrophilia cannot escape one much.

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A Rose for Emily

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