In "A Rose for Emily," what does Miss Emily do to make the townspeople think that she and her boyfriend have wed?

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rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For a period of time Miss Emily dated a man named Homer Barron. The foreman of a construction company, he was in town to pave the town's sidewalks, but he lived in the North. He took Emily out riding in his buggy on Sunday afternoons, but the townspeople heard that he had said he was not the marrying kind, so they thought it was inappropriate for Emily to be seen with him so openly.

However, since the townspeople spread around every tidbit of information about the taciturn and somewhat reclusive woman, soon everyone knew that Miss Emily had made some purchases of men's items from the jeweler. She even had these items engraved with the initials H.B., so people knew they must be for Homer. Because the items purchased were part of "a men's toilet set in silver," the townspeople assumed they were Emily's wedding gift to Homer. A toilet set is a grooming set; it may have contained such things as a hand mirror, hair brush, clothes brush, shoe horn, glove stretcher, button hook, and small containers with lids. Such a personal item, monogrammed, would be just the thing a new bride would purchase for her husband. A few days later Emily also purchased "a complete outfit of men’s clothing, including a nightshirt." To the townspeople, such a purchase evidently seemed strange for an unmarried woman to buy for her fiance, so they assumed the two had already married.

The story does not say what was in Miss Emily's mind when she made these purchases. Readers only find out at the end of the story that Emily murdered Homer and kept his body in an upstairs room of her home for about 40 years. One possibility is that she wanted the townspeople to think she was married. However, there is little indication in the story that Emily cared about what the residents thought of her. It's probable that Emily made the purchases simply as part of her demented fantasy. She wanted to pretend that she and Homer were married. His body was found in the night shirt; Emily must have undressed his corpse and dressed it in the nightshirt. No one in town could have imagined the hideous truth about Emily's purchases or her relationship with Homer Barron.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Miss Emily, either for frustration, or hopefulness, to conceal her crime, or to save face, began to make a series of strange purchases on behalf of Homer. These purchases are often thought of as gifts that a woman would give her fiancee, or a wife would give her bridegroom.

In the case of Emily, she had been buying things that are more proper for a wedding shower than for a conventional gift. They included a male nightshirt, a complete set of male clothing, and a "man's toilet set in silver with the letters H.B. on each piece" from the town jeweler.

As the town observed these behaviors, they made the assumption that they were already married, and actually the folks town narrator says that they "were glad" for Emily.

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A Rose for Emily

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