Why do the townspeople in "A Rose for Emily" believe the boyfriend/husband-to-be has left?

Expert Answers

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

When Homer Barron and Miss Emily begin to date, the community of Jefferson disapproves of their relationship because Homer is a laborer from the North who is not of the same social status as Emily Grierson. The community attempts to thwart their relationship by sending a Baptist minister to Miss Emily's home and writes a letter to her relatives in Alabama. The citizens of Jefferson are initially pleased when Miss Emily's relatives arrive to speak to her about dating Homer Barron. After discovering that Miss Emily bought wedding articles, they are not surprised at Homer Barron's disappearance.

The citizens initially believe that Homer Barron left in order to prepare for their upcoming wedding. They also believe that Homer may have left to give Emily a chance to get rid of her cousins. Three days after Emily's cousins leave, a neighbor witnesses Homer Barron enter Emily's home, which is the last time anyone sees Homer in town. There is not much speculation as to where or why Homer Barron is never seen again. Perhaps, the disapproving citizens are no longer concerned about Homer's well-being because he is a Northerner, who attempted to upset tradition in the southern town of Jefferson. Interestingly, the community does not investigate Homer's disappearance or question Emily about purchasing arsenic.

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

Homer Barron's disappearance was a big deal in a small town like William Faulkner's Jefferson in the short story, "A Rose for Emily," but there was never any sinister connection until after Emily Grierson had died. Homer had earlier left Jefferson after Emily's relatives had appeared to try and reason with her concerning her relationship with the "Yankee" Barron.

So she had blood-kin under her roof again and we sat back to watch developments.  At first nothing happened.  Then we were sure that they were to be married...  We were really glad... 
... Sure enough, after another week they departed.  And, as we had expected all along, within three days Homer Barron was back in town. A neighbor saw the Negro man admit him at the kitchen door at dusk one evening.
And that was the last we saw of Homer Barron.  And of Miss Emily for some time.

In the minds of the people of Jefferson, Miss Emily had simply been jilted by the lifelong bachelor. They had probably had a falling out, and Homer had left in the middle of the night. Miss Emily's absence was her way of mourning her best and last chance at marriage. As for "the smell," it was a foregone conclusion that it was, as Miss Emily had implied by purchasing the poison, simply a rat.

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
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team