In "A Rose for Emily," why did Emily kill Homer Barron?

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bmadnick eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We must look at the events throughout the story that fore-shadow Homer's death and the possiblity that Emily murdered him. She was raised by her doting father who felt no man was good enough for her, already setting Emily apart from the town. Her father idolized her, and the town begins to also. When her father dies, Emily loses the only person she had in the world, and she refuses to allow his body to be taken away for three days. Emily isolates herself from the town after her father's death, and this makes the town of Jefferson even more interested in her life. Emily represents the "old South", and as the culture and values of the "old South" declined, so did Emily. She replaced reality with her own memories, living in her own world. This is why she tells the aldermen to talk to Col. Sartoris about her taxes, even though he's been dead for ten years. When Homer Barron shows interest in Emily, she sees him as a suitor who has finally come to court her. Perhaps she's rebelling against her father's beliefs that no one is good enough for her, or perhaps she's desperate to have someone in her life. At that point, Emily is trapped as the spinster "idol" of society, and she needs a husband to give her life meaning. Perhaps her fears become overwhelming when Homer leaves for a short time, and she decides she would rather have a marriage in death than no marriage at all. She sleeps beside Homer's corpse for forty years.

pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Miss Emily, by the time she met Homer Barron, was already past the proper age for marrying in the culture of the old south.  In fact, her relationship with this Yankee was looked down upon by the town and her family members who came to visit.  

The reader already knows that Miss Emily is comfortable with corpses, because of her father, and the fact that she buys men's clothes and rat poison, in conjunction with Homer Barron never being seen again, lead to the conclusion that she poisoned him to keep him from leaving her again. 

The town, as well as Miss Emily, came to understand that Homer Barron was:

"not a marrying man"  (Faulkner)

The town believed that Miss Emily:

"would persuade him yet, because Homer himself had remarked--he liked men, and it was known that he drank with the younger men in the Elks' Club" (Faulkner)  

The story suggests that Emily killed Homer Barron because she believed that he would not marry her and that she wanted to make sure that this gentleman caller did not get away.   

linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We can only guess as to why Emily killed Homer because the narrator doesn't give us a motive. More than likely, Emily killed him to prevent him from leaving her, but again the narrator doesn't say that Homer was thinking about leaving her. All we know is that one day Emily is buying a man's toiletry set and clothing, and then Homer is never seen again. One intriguing possibility is that Emily didn't kill Homer at all. At the end of the story, the narrator says that the body "had apparently once lain in the attitude of an embrace." Could it be that Homer had a heart attack and that Emily didn't want anyone to take his body away? Remember that she had to be forced to give up her father's body. Just speculation!

Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This question has already been asked by other students , in slightly different ways, and answered by our editors.  Please see the links below.

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jabez | Student

The narrator leads us to believe that Homer was 'not the marrying kind' and therefore didn't propose to Miss Emily.  However, when you read between the lines, it appears that the opposite was true.   In actuality, it appears that Miss Emily refused to marry HIM.  Miss Emily's father had historically forbidden her to marry anyone and had chased away all of her beaux.  With her father now deceased, Miss Emily was finally free to marry.  But she knew in her heart that her father would never approve of a Northerner who worked as a day laborer.  So she couldn't marry him.  It would've been displeasing to her father.  She tried simply living with Homer, but that action incurred the wrath of the minister, the minister's wife and the Grierson cousins from Alabama.   They wouldn't tolerate Miss Emily simply living with a man; it was a poor example to the young people.  So with marriage out of the question and cohabitation no longer an option, Miss Emily took the next logical step -- she 'preserved' Homer in an unmarried state in her home, a situation that she thought would be pleasing to Papa AND to the Grierson cousins.   This way she could have Homer forever, while avoiding the 'embarrassment' of a Grierson marrying a Yankee day laborer.          

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A Rose for Emily

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