In William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," what "method" did Emily's father use to keep everyone from his daughter?

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "A Rose for Miss Emily," by William Faulkner, Miss Emily is heavily influenced by her father, the only parent we know of as she is growing up. Her father is an antiquated thinker, a relic of a time before the Civil War. Miss Emily learns her outdated thinking from her father, which causes her to be in a constant state of conflict with the townspeople--though she, as a genteel southern woman, does not even seem to realize it. Or, if she does, she does not care.

We only have one substantive reference to Mr. Grierson in this story, yet he is instrumental in shaping the rest of his daughter's life. When she was a girl of marriageable age, Miss Emily's father had a unique method of keeping unworthy suitors (and he deemed them all unworthy) away from his daughter. The people of the town remember seeing it this way:

People in our town...believed that the Griersons held themselves a little too high for what they really were. None of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily and such. We had long thought of them as a tableau, Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door.

Obviously, Mr. Grierson's method of discouraging Miss Emily's suitors was to stand in the doorway with a horsewhip. Note that he is not merely holding it for effect; he is "clutching" it, ready to use it if necessary.

This method was exceptionally effective, since Miss Emily never gets married and keeps the only man she ever has a relationship with by killing him.

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A Rose for Emily

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