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

Expert Answers info

M.P. Ossa, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseCollege Lecturer, ESL/TEFL Instructor

bookM.A. from Chapman University

calendarEducator since 2008

write5,680 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and Business

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Emily’s free will was superseded by the whims and wishes of her father, who never thought that anyone was good enough for Emily.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.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial