Homer Barron is a Northern laborer who comes to Jefferson to help pave the sidewalks. Though the younger citizens of Jefferson dismiss his status as a Northerner, they come to appreciate Homer’s charisma and sense of humor. At first his relationship with Emily is a source of amusement and delight for the townspeople, but many object 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 is a “big,” loud, Northern “Yankee” who rejects the idea of getting married and works as a day laborer. His presence goes against the traditions and sensibilities of the South, and his romance with Emily borders on scandalous. Just as the younger generations are more willing to challenge Emily about her taxes, they are 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 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 rejects marriage and tradition, is incompatible with Southern expectations, particularly that of courtship and marriage. The grisly end he meets represents the way the Southern aristocracy desperately clung to their old traditions at the expense of modernization.
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