Last Updated on January 17, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 295
Homer Barron was a Northern laborer who came to Jefferson to help pave the sidewalks. Though the younger citizens of Jefferson dismissed his status as a Northerner, they came to appreciate Homer’s charisma and sense of humor. At first, his relationship with Emily was a source of amusement and delight for the townspeople, but many objected to the match on account of the drastic difference in social status.
Homer’s role in Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” is largely symbolic. He represents the Northern influence that began to pervade the South after the Civil War. Homer was a “big,” loud, Northern “Yankee” who rejected the idea of getting married and worked as a day laborer. His presence went against the traditions and sensibilities of the South, and his romance with Emily bordered on scandalous. Just as the younger generations were more willing to challenge Emily about her taxes, they were also more willing to accept Homer, highlighting the cultural shift happening in Jefferson and in the postwar South more broadly.
The romance between Emily and Homer acts as an allegory for the post–Civil War relationship between the North and the South. Emily represents the decaying traditions of the South, upholding the notions of aristocracy and class division. Homer represents the social mobility and revised class expectations of the North, exemplified by the Northern “carpetbaggers” who traveled to the South after the war in hopes of profiting from the South’s dilapidated infrastructure. Initially, Northern profiteers like Homer attempted to integrate. However, Homer’s lifestyle, which rejected marriage and tradition, was incompatible with Southern expectations, particularly that of courtship and marriage. The grisly end he met represents the way the Southern aristocracy desperately clung to their old traditions at the expense of modernization.