The setting of Faulkner's short story takes place in the southern town of Jefferson following the Civil War, which significantly affects how the local citizens perceive the northern foreman, Homer Barron. Emily is considered a southern aristocrat who hails from a prestigious family, and she symbolically represents the Old South. When Emily begins to date Homer Barron, her community members are appalled and disapprove of her dating a lowly "day laborer." The Jeffersonians subscribe to traditional southern views of marriage and believe that Emily Grierson is forgetting her "noblesse oblige." They feel that Emily is too far above Homer Barron’s social status to be in a relationship with him and is setting a bad example for the younger girls in her community.
Symbolically, Homer Barron represents northern industry following the Civil War, which expanded their businesses to the south after the Union victory. Essentially, the Jeffersonians view Homer Barron as a carpetbagger who does not deserve to court Miss Emily Grierson. There is immense social pressure from the citizens and Emily’s relatives for her to break up with Homer Barron. Tragically, Emily Grierson dismisses their concerns and ends up poisoning Homer Barron before he can skip town.
The Grierson family was once considered a part of Southern aristocracy, and Emily has been brought up that way by her father, who thought that none of her suitors were good enough for her. He certainly would never have allowed a Yankee such as Homer Barron to marry his daughter. But Emily's father is dead, and Emily's marital prospects have long since vanished; so, Homer, being a new man in town, becomes the target of Emily's attentions. The fact that he is a Yankee and a modern-day carpetbagger means little to Emily at this stage in her life. Worse yet, Homer is a common day laborer--far removed from the wealthy aristocratic Southern gentleman that her father would have preferred. The pairing of Homer and Emily is much like a member of British royalty deciding to marry a commoner: It attracts attention because most royals have been brought up to marry other members of royalty. The townspeople of Jefferson thought Emily's romance was scandalous, at least in part because of Homer's own common, Northern roots.