Who were the three men in Miss Emily's life and how were they similar in "A Rose for Emily"?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are three men in Miss Emily's life.

The first is her father. The second is Colonel Sartoris. The third is Homer Baron.

Miss Emily's father is an over-bearing, controlling, cold man of the old South.  He rules his daughter's life with an iron fist, dictating who she can and cannot associate with. He has little regard for her as a woman; she lives constantly in his shadow for his entire life.

Colonel Sartoris, who runs the local government after Emily's father passes, treats Miss Emily like a delicate flower, like a true gentlewoman of southern society. When she raises concerns about paying taxes, he dismisses back taxes and excuses payment for the rest of her life—in the fashion of a true southern gentleman. This is a man who knows how to treat a woman as gently as one would expect, especially for a woman on her own.

The last man in Emily's life is Homer Baron. He is a wild young man, handsome, virile and popular with the ladies.  He is flashy and gregarious, and she is seen in his company a number of times. It is assumed, when Emily orders a man's sterling silver brush and comb set, that there will be a marriage between the two very soon. When Homer leaves town, everyone believes he goes to prepare a home for them after the wedding. He returns briefly and is never seen again. (It is, of course, his body the town officials find at Emily's death, resting in her bed, nothing but a skeleton.)

All three men are regarded highly by the society in which they live. They are the epitome of members of the genteel society of the South. Each one is a powerful man in one way or another. Although they each treat Miss Emily differently, she is dependent upon them for different things.  Miss Emily's father supports her; Colonel Sartoris "rescues her" from taxes; and, Homer Baron entertains her and makes her feel special.

All three of the men in Miss Emily's life are different in who they are, but similar in what they mean to her.


M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is one more and very important man in Emily's life and that is her black manservant, Tobe.

Tobe serves as a silent witness to the real Emily. He lives with her, and had done so since she and he were very young. A symbol of Emily's inability to let go, she keeps him in the same sense that she would have kept a slave in the old days. Comparatively, Tobe is unable to let go of the past either because he does not leave Emily, although it is known later on that he did take off.

Tobe is important because he knows what goes on in the household. He knew what was going on, and that is when he escaped. However, he served as the company that Emily needed without being acknowledged as so. He is a hugely important element in the story because he is like her shadow. Every time people see Emily through the window, or wherever, they also see her manservant at some point.

It is a very important thing to consider Tobe a part of Emily's life.

Read the study guide:
A Rose for Emily

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