Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 392
Homer Barron: Miss Emily’s boyfriend who is described as a “big, dark, ready man, with a big voice and eyes lighter than his face.” A Northerner, he has come south to Jefferson as a foreman helping to pave the sidewalks.
The Druggist: Miss Emily orders the local druggist to sell her arsenic, even though she refused to tell him what the poison is for.
After her father’s death, Miss Emily disappeared from public site for a long time, and when she reemerged, Jefferson had just started paving its sidewalks. Homer Barron, a “Yankee,” is a foreman for one of the crews working on the contract, and soon he would be seen by the town escorting Miss Emily on Sunday afternoons.
The townspeople began expressing pity for Miss Emily; Homer, being a Northerner, is not considered a proper match for a Southern woman such as Miss Emily. But about a year after the two started appearing in public, Miss Emily ordered arsenic from the local druggist. Despite being asked by the druggist what the poison is for, Miss Emily refuses to tell. The box has a skull and bones on it, with the caption, “For rats.”
The themes of class, race and status are prevalent throughout Faulkner’s writing, and Faulkner address those themes repeatedly in “A Rose for Emily.” The society of Jefferson is segregated by race, extremely class conscious, and extremely conscious of societal rank and status. When Miss Emily is seen in public with Homer Barron, the townspeople are abhorred on two accounts: first, that Barron is a “Yankee,” and second, that he is a “day laborer,” even if he is a foreman. A “real lady” such as Miss Emily, and a Grierson at that, should never forget her social duty, her “noblesse oblige,” by cavorting with such a person. A true Southern lady would only consider a Southern white man of similar social standing.
Nevertheless, Miss Emily spends Sundays with Barron, ignoring the whisperings of her fellow Jeffersonians. And true to her character, when Miss Emily visits the druggist to purchase some poison for reasons not yet known, she refuses to tell the druggist the purpose of the poison. And true to the townspeople’s relationship with Miss Emily, the druggist does not press the issue and gives Miss Emily what she wants.
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