What is the relationship between Miss Emily and her father in "A Rose for Emily"?

Quick answer:

The relationship between Miss Emily and her father in "A Rose for Emily" is founded on codependence and inequality. Miss Emily's father was overbearing, authoritative, and oppressive. Miss Emily developed a reverence towards her father and became completely dependent on him. Miss Emily's father also significantly stifled his daughter's social life and influenced Miss Emily to develop into a supercilious, reclusive woman who is mentally unhealthy and incapable of maintaining meaningful relationships.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The relationship between Miss Emily and her father, though rather unhealthy to modern eyes, was all too common at that time. Mr. Grierson is a domestic tyrant; what he says, goes. And woe betide his daughter if she doesn't get with the program. Grierson is a violent man with a violent temper and doesn't hesitate to crack the whip, quite literally.

Mr. Grierson is what we would today describe as a control freak. He feels that as her father he has a right to control every aspect of Emily's life, including which men she sees. Most fathers in those days were fiercely protective of their daughters and their reputations. But Grierson takes things way too far.

Truth be told, Mr. Grierson gives the impression that he doesn't want Emily to get married and settle down, as that would undermine his control over her. That's why he sends all her suitors packing, which as well as cementing his control over his daughter makes it all but impossible for Emily to develop emotionally.

As a result, the relationship between father and daughter is one of codependency. Grierson's domestic tyranny effectively stunts Emily's emotional growth, which leads to tragic consequences further on down the line in her relationship with the unfortunate Homer Barron.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Faulkner's classic short story "A Rose for Emily," Miss Emily Grierson had an unhealthy, codependent relationship with her father, who was domineering and overprotective. Miss Emily and her father's relationship is best represented by a tableau of their family, which depicts Miss Emily's father standing in the foreground and holding a whip with his back facing her. This image depicts the way Miss Emily's father viewed his daughter as a possession that needed to be guarded and supervised at all times. Miss Emily experienced no autonomy growing up and lived in her father's shadow.

As a successful, wealthy plantation owner, Miss Emily's father believed that no one was good enough for his daughter and prevented Emily from dating any local men. Miss Emily's father's oppressive, overprotective personality negatively affected her social life and significantly influenced her mental stability. Miss Emily became dependent on her father and never developed independence or appropriate social skills, which explains why she refused to accept his death and lived as a recluse for an extended period of time. The crayon portrait of Miss Emily's father in her living room also symbolically represents her attachment to her father and his overseeing nature.

Miss Emily's emotional well-being and social life were stifled by her overbearing, authoritative father, which explains why she clung to Homer Barron and eventually murdered him when she feared that he would abandon her. Miss Emily's father also instilled a sense of false pride and superiority in her. She grew up believing that she was inherently better than everyone and treated her neighbors with contempt and disregard.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The relationship between Emily Grierson and her father is one of co-dependence, over-protectiveness, and false pride. While it may be obvious that the father did love his daughter, the fact is that his behaviors toward her were not healthy and had the effect of inversely affect the young woman, turning her socially awkward and unable to create meaningful relationships with people.

The factors of co-dependence, over-protectiveness, and false pride of the relationship are all caused by Emily‘s father. When it comes to the first two factors, Mr. Grierson was territorial of Emily. This means that he treated her as if she were his property. The narrator even expresses how the general imagery was that of seeing Mr. Grierson sitting with a watchful eye looking at anyone who came near Emily, while she cowed behind him. 

Emily’s free will was superseded by the whims and wishes of her father, who never thought that anyone was good enough for Emily. As such, he raised a young woman who only felt protected when she was with her father, and grew codependent on him. This is evident in the way Emily reacted when her father died.

The day after his death… [Emily] told them that her father was not dead. She did that for three days, with the ministers calling on her, and the doctors, trying to persuade her to let them dispose of the body. Just as they were about to resort to law and force, she broke down, and they buried her father quickly.

Still, the townsfolk were surprisingly forgiving of Emily. They knew about the codependent relationship between father and daughter, and they were fully aware of how much of Emily’s youth this relationship took away.

…We believed she had to do that. We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will.

The false sense of pride was also instilled by Emily’s father. It made her feel that she was above everyone else. This is evident in the way that she blindly continued to abide by the old mandate established by the now defunct Colonel Sartoris, where he exempted the Grierson clan from paying taxes in Jefferson.

Not only did she refuse to pay taxes, but she continuously ignored the obvious need to fix her home so it would not continue to be “an eyesore” to the public. Additionally, she also refused to do anything when “the smell” started to annoy the neighbors. It was them who took it upon themselves to throw lime around her property until the smell went away.

Finally, the over protection that Mr. Grierson exerted over his daughter was both overwhelming and unnecessary. It is the key factor that causes Emily to become the way that she is. In all, the relationship between the two is not emotionally freeing, but binding. It is more complex and problematic than it is healthy. It is a chaotic relationship that did not help Emily become a better person.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Exactly what is Emily's relationship with her father in "A Rose for Emily"? How did he treat her?

The author never gives an exact description of the relationship between Emily and her father.  He just gives hints here and there to a hard, aristocratic man.  The author tells us that the Grierson's always seemed to think they were better than anyone else, and that none of the men were good enough for Emily.  The father chased men away from the house just like Emily herself did.  There is one image the author gives of the father standing in the doorway as an imposing figure holding a horsewhip with Miss Emily in the background.

All of these harsh, aristocratic qualities seemed to be passed from the father to Miss Emily which the author tells us kept her from marrying when she was younger, and kept her as an unmanageable, mysterious icon in the town once the father had passed away.  Whatever the relationship, the father had made her what she was indicated by the author's statement that the "quality of her father which had thwarted her woman's life so many times had been too virulent and too furious to die."

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on