In "A Rose for Emily," why didn't Emily run away and live elsewhere when her father was driving off her suitors?

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jpn001 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The most straightforward answer is that Miss Emily did not go to live elsewhere because it would not have been proper for her to do so. The narrator describes her family as being a model of old tradition of the American South. Within that model, female children, even when adults, lived with their parents until they were married. Further, their parents had a great measure of control over the suitors for their daughters. Had Miss Emily left, she would have not only been defying her father, but also the traditions in which she was raised and to which her family adhered strongly. It is likely, given what we learn about Miss Emily throughout the story, that not only would she not have defied her father, she might not have even thought of it as an option at all.

In addition to tradition, which would have kept her from leaving, the narrator seems to indicate that perhaps Miss Emily’s father exerted greater than normal control over her, so we need to consider their particular relationship as well. While Miss Emily had cousins who lived elsewhere, she and her father were the only Griersons then living in the town. The narrator does not explain what happened to Miss Emily’s mother, or whether she had any siblings, so all we know is that she and her father lived alone at least from the time of her early adulthood until his death. As such, they seem to have been unusually attached to each other.

Therefore, we can see her father’s acts of driving away possible suitors as a means of trying to keep her from leaving him. Further, her reaction when he dies – an extreme unwillingness to let him go even after his death – shows the reader that she did not want to lose him either. Given the level of attachment they had for each other, even if we might deem it an unhealthy attachment, it is unlikely that Miss Emily would have voluntarily left her father no matter what actions he took against potential suitors.

In addition to the attachment Miss Emily and her father seemed to share, fear may have been a factor as well. We are not told of her father ever physical mistreating Miss Emily, but the narrator’s description of him standing in front of her in the doorway of their house, a horsewhip in his hand, in the context of a suggested potential suitor calling, gives the reader a glimpse of potential violence from Emily’s father and perhaps in their relationship. Any fear she had of her father, coupled with the strength of their attachment, may have precluded her from conceiving of leaving, even if it had been socially proper.

Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In addition to all the reasons provided already, the fact is that in that time and place, Miss Emily would have lacked the wherewithal to make it on her own. She was not likely to have been educated in any way that would have allowed her to earn a living. She was also probably lacking the skills necessary to care for herself, for example, cooking, laundry, or household repairs, tasks done by servants as she was growing up. She could arrange flowers, perhaps, and play the piano a bit, but her education was useless for anything but being a Southern belle, a daughter or wife who would direct servants, look attractive, and perhaps do a bit of needlepoint. We tend to forget that it is only fairly recently that females have been raised in a way that allows them to be self-sufficient, and even today, this is not universal, and there are still glaring deficiencies in equality of upbringing.

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A Rose for Emily

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