what do you infer to be the author's attitude toward Emily Grierson? Is she simply a murderous madwoman?

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pmiranda2857's profile pic

pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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William Faulkner, the author, crafted his stories about the South from stories he head from his grandfather.  I think that the author's tone is sympathetic towards Miss Emily.  He never mentions that she is crazy or a criminal.  In fact, when you read this story, you feel no judgement of Emily from the author, only sadness for a wasted life. 

Her life is lost in the slow death of the old South, and her father's domination.  As she struggles to deal with her loneliness, she picks the wrong man, Homer Barron. 

The fact that Faulkner wrote this character, Homer Barron, the way he did, tells me that he needed to express the absolute bad luck that Miss Emily experienced in her life.  First her father prevents her from finding a husband, once he is dead, she starts going out with a man, even though he is a Yankee, he prefers men to women.  It couldn't possibly get any worse for Emily.

I think he feels sorry for her.  He writes her as a victim of circumstances beyond her control. 

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jeff-hauge | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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I agree about the notion of control. "She clung to that which had robbed her, as people do." This is a potent thought. Her father had robbed her of any chance to be courted, yet she clung to her father's dead body. Homer had taken quite a bit from Emily, of course she gave it to him, yet when it seems she knew he was due to leave, she clung to him.... for 40 years.

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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I think the narrator treats her as an eccentric old woman who might have a few skeletons in her closet (or upstairs bedroom). He doesn't moralize about her or her ways. In fact, he may be telling us more about the townspeople who, although not abusive to her, were neglectful in letting her become such a hermit and isolate herself from them.

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afi80fl | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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There are some other subtle hints at her lack of stability as well.  Consider the "artwork" above the fireplace; rather than a painting or other professional-looking piece, she has a drawing she did herself with a crayon... something resembling that which a child would do.  She also had a broken watch chain she would wear.  Do we read more into this, viewing it as a symbol for her sense of time being "broken", or simply see it as her inattention to details that normal functioning adults would note?  Either way, something is amiss.

Also, isn't it possible that Emily was embarrased that  Homer "preferred the company of men"?  The fact that she couldn't tell a homosexual from a potential heterosexual suitor shows that she is socially awkward to say the least.  I personally think that she figured it out, and that's why she said the poison was "for rats".    Or, the other school of thought here is that the pharmacist knew what she was up to, and agreed that Homer was indeed a yankee "rat". 

It's a very interesting story, and yes, necrophilia is definitely a major theme, not so much for the sexual abnormality, but rather for the sense of control; if someone is dead, they cannot complain about your performance, much less decide not to consent.  Isn't control over life/death an issue when she keeps her father's body? 

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Is Miss Emily insane? Nobody would argue that she was rational and well balanced (!), but is she insane, and how should insanity be defined?

In the legal sense, Emily G. was not insane. There is evidence that she knew what she was doing and that she knew it was wrong. She lied to the druggist about why she needed the arsenic, and she hid Homer's body in the attic where it remained for many years without being discovered. Emily was quite clever in murdering Homer; she planned carefully and covered all her bases.

So the question remains: Was she insane, or did she suffer instead from a number of personality disorders? It's an interesting question, but I don't think it would make any difference to poor Homer.

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sharrons | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

In response to post #3:

I agree that living in the past does not mean that someone has psychological issues.  However, the fact that she refused to bury her father AND because she slept with the corpse of Homer suggests that she has some type of pyschological issues-quite possibly necrophilia.

Furthermore, Homer's murder can be seen as more of an attempt to keep him from leaving, rather than revenge.  By killing Homer, she was able to "live" with him until she herself died.  The fact that she slept in the same  bed with him certainly suggests necrophilia. 

Also, the author hints at psychological problems when he talks about Emily's family members that have psycological issues--perhaps it's hereditary.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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He is just stating the facts as he sees them.  She is representative of a bygone era, and so therefore, she is respected--not for herself but for what she symobolizes.  Is she nuts?  Not necessarily.  Lots of women live with only their servants.  Many exact revenge when they deem it necessary.  Lots of people--men and women alike--prefer to live in the past and hang on to what is comfortable and safe.

sharrons's profile pic

sharrons | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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In, "A Rose for Emily", the author's attitude seems to be more objective, than subjective. However, if we look closely at the story, there are subtle hints that the author almost pities Emily as a social recluse with mental problems.

For example, Emily's "indiscretions" (i.e. keeping her father's body, killing Homer and keeping his body) are described in an almost matter of fact style. However, the author does give us details about her life to let the readers now what lead her to these acts. For example, it is stated that some of her family members (aunts) suffer from mental problems. We also see that Emily sees death as not necessarily ending a relationship. For example, she kept her fathers body with her until the towns people made her remove.

Furthermore, Emily kills Homer (as you recall he was going to leave her) to keep him from leaving. In her mind, if he is dead, he will not be able to leave her, and thus they can continue their relationship. This is evident in the fact that at the end of the story, we find out that she has been sleeping in the bed with the corspe for many years.

So clearly the author portrays Emily, not as a "madwoman", but more as a social recluse who does not see death as an end to a relationship.

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