Women in the Old South of “good family” were often expected to be paragons of virtue and respectability and were given special treatment as “ladies.” How do you see these attitudes at work in this story? How have they shaped Miss Emily’s life?

Miss Emily is a young, beautiful, and well-off Southern belle. Throughout the story she is protected by her family's reputation. She is not like other Southern belles who were often described as outgoing and fun-loving. Miss Emily is described as having an "iron face" and being unapproachable. Her large house was always kept clean and tidy, her yard was perfectly manicured with flowers in every corner of her property, and she only ever let two colored men into her home to do work around the house (and even then they were never allowed past the front door). However, Miss Emily was also isolated because of her family's reputation.

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Miss Emily is given special treatment because of her position as a lady from a historically prominent family when she refuses to pay taxes and when she purchases poison. People expect certain “ladylike” behaviors from her if she chooses to engage in romantic relationships, and her outings with Homer Barron

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Homer Barron thus provoke other ladies in town.

One example of the social distinction afforded to Miss Emily occurs when the town determines that she needs to pay taxes. When she ignores the first letter and a subsequent phone call from the sheriff, the mayor himself pens a letter to her. Miss Emily simply sends a reply that she no longer leaves her home—and she returns the tax notice. A group of men thus decides to pay her a visit, but they must be formally “admitted” into her home. They make themselves comfortable while waiting for her but later rise to standing when she enters the room; “she [does] not ask them to sit.” Instead, Miss Emily simply replies that she owes no taxes and asks her servant to “show [the men] out.” They are vanquished, and Miss Emily thus evades the legal tax system due to her position in society. The men don’t want to argue with or embarrass a lady of a historically prominent family, so they allow her special treatment.

Miss Emily again evades the law when she purchases poison. The druggist questions her need for arsenic, and she refuses to tell him what she intends to use it for. Again, the man doesn’t want to disrespect a lady, so he turns to the law: “But the law requires you to tell what you are going to use it for.” Miss Emily only stares at him with her head tilted back, a defiant action of self-importance. He is left to determine whether to attempt to force Miss Emily's hand or to evade the situation. He chooses evasion, scrawling a fictitious purpose on the box: “For rats.” Miss Emily wins yet another legal battle.

When Miss Emily begins spending time with Homer Barron, the other ladies in town are appalled. She holds her head high while she rides around alone with him in a “glittering buggy,” and the ladies believe that this sort of behavior is unbecoming and a poor example to young people. They ask a minister to speak with Miss Emily regarding her poor choices, believing that a lady’s reputation should be irreproachable. Though the details of that conversation are unclear, the man refuses to return to Miss Emily’s home.

This treatment affects Miss Emily in various aspects. First, she develops a sense of self-importance and doesn’t believe that the laws others must follow apply to her. This is especially important as the fate of Homer Barron becomes clear. It also sets Miss Emily apart from the rest of her society; because of her father’s influence over suitors in her younger years, Miss Emily has never been afforded close relationships. In her father’s absence, she is almost completely isolated, revered for her status as a “proper” lady yet lacking any real sense of intimacy.

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