What was the smell in "A Rose for Emily"?

The smell in "A Rose for Emily" is Homer Barron's decomposing corpse, which is hidden inside Miss Emily Grierson's decaying home.

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In the second section of the short story "A Rose for Emily," the narrator describes an awful smell emanating from Miss Emily Grierson's home shortly after her sweetheart Homer Barron deserts her. Initially, the local ladies blame Miss Emily's Black cook and housekeeper for the smell and...

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In the second section of the short story "A Rose for Emily," the narrator describes an awful smell emanating from Miss Emily Grierson's home shortly after her sweetheart Homer Barron deserts her. Initially, the local ladies blame Miss Emily's Black cook and housekeeper for the smell and believe that he is not properly cleaning the kitchen. One of Miss Emily's female neighbors even complains to the elderly Judge Stevens about the smell.

Several other neighbors also issue complaints regarding the awful smell, and the Board of Aldermen meets to discuss a possible solution. When a younger member of the Board of Aldermen suggests they demand that Miss Emily clean her estate and get rid of the smell, Judge Stevens interrupts him and says, "Dammit, sir ... will you accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad?"

As an older member of the Jefferson community, Judge Stevens respects the once-esteemed Grierson family and would never purposely offend Miss Emily. He honors her as a living monument of the Old South and influences the Board of Alderman to take action without insulting Miss Emily. The next night, several men sneak onto Miss Emily's property like burglars and sprinkle lime around her house and throughout her yard to suppress the awful smell. After a week or two, the smell goes away, and Miss Emily continues to live as a recluse.

Later in the story, the reader learns that Miss Emily believed that she would lose Homer Barron and purchased arsenic from a local pharmacy. Miss Emily proceeded to poison her lover in order to stay with him forever, and the smell emanating from her yard is implied to be that of Homer Barron's decomposing corpse.

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