A Rose for Emily Characters
Miss Emily Grierson is a reclusive Southern belle harboring a gruesome secret.
- Homer Barron is a foreman who has a brief relationship with Emily before mysteriously disappearing.
Emily's father is a proud, aristocratic man who chases away his daughter's suitors because they aren't good enough for her.
Colonel Sartoris is the mayor of Jefferson and exempts Emily from paying taxes.
Last Updated on April 24, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 232
Emily Grierson, an aged Southern belle, is the last surviving member of an aristocratic family living in the antebellum South. Emily’s father keeps her cloistered for much of her youth. After the death of her father, she is left penniless and alone, an outsider with no friends and no marriage prospects. Emily is alternately pitied and scorned by the people of Jefferson. She ultimately fails to overcome her isolated upbringing and becomes the town eccentric. Emily has a brief romance with a Northern day worker named Homer Barron. After their relationship ends in his apparent abandonment of her, she secludes herself entirely. At the end of the story, Emily dies, and her house is investigated. What appears to have been an open secret amongst the townspeople is revealed: Homer’s decaying body has been kept in a bed in Emily’s house for nearly forty years. (Read extended character analysis of Emily Grierson.)
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. (Read extended character analysis of Homer Barron.)
Last Updated on November 8, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 153
Mr. Grierson is Emily’s overbearing father. The townspeople view the Grierson family as a “tableau”— more relics of the Old South than actual people. During Emily’s youth, her father rejects her aspirant suitors on account of their not being “good enough,” condemning her to a life of lonely spinsterhood after his death. Emily initially refuses to acknowledge his death, only breaking down with grief after several days of being hounded by ministers.
The townspeople are sympathetic towards Emily's plight. They say that she would “cling to what had robbed her” on account of having nothing else meaningful in her life. Emily never seems to fully escape Mr. Grierson’s domineering presence. A portrait of him looms over the parlor, a symbol of his continued control of Emily’s interactions. The same portrait is brought to her funeral, indicating that Emily is unable to escape her father’s influence, even in death.
Last Updated on November 8, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 161
Colonel Sartoris is the mayor of Jefferson at the time of Mr. Grierson’s death. He invents a story about a loan Mr. Grierson once gave to the city. As a kindness to the now-destitute Emily, Sartoris exempts her of having to pay taxes and cites the story of the loan as a justification of the exemption.
Colonel Sartoris represents traditional Southern values and codes of honor. Rather than allow Emily, an upper-class woman, to have to work or accept charity, Sartoris devises a strategy that benefits Emily without embarrassing her. Colonel Sartoris’s indulgence of Emily is challenged by the younger generations of politicians, who attempt to modernize with a federal mail service. When they attempt to include Emily, she rebuffs them.
Colonel Sartoris is a recurring character in William Faulkner’s works, specifically the novel Sartoris. He is a member of the once-prominent Sartoris family, members of the old Southern aristocracy who find themselves displaced after the Civil War.
Last Updated on November 8, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 170
Tobe is Emily’s “combined gardener and cook” and her only human contact for most of her later life. He serves as Emily’s “manservant,” shopping at the market, escorting guests in the home, and likely caring for Emily as she ages. However, it is unlikely that they were true companions, for, as the narrator remarks that at the time of Emily’s death, Tobe’s voice is “harsh and rusty, as if from disuse.”
The townsfolk are quick to blame the smell from Emily’s house on Tobe’s poor housekeeping skills. They pester him for details about Emily during his outings, but he refuses to divulge any information. Tobe represents the remnants of oppression and slavery that still pervaded the turn-of-the-century South. There were very few employment opportunities for black men in the antebellum South outside of labor or service, and Tobe likely stayed with Emily out of a combination of pity and a lack of better options. After Emily’s death, Tobe leaves Jefferson and never returns.
Last Updated on November 8, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 57
The cousins are estranged relations of Emily’s. They arrive in Jefferson after the baptist minister’s wife contacts them about Emily’s relationship with Homer Barron. Though at first the locals welcome them for their attempts to disrupt the romance between Homer and Emily, the cousins quickly become a nuisance to both Emily and the townsfolk.
Last Updated on November 8, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 61
Judge Stevens is a member of the older generation of Southerners who still hold to traditional values about social decorum and status. After some of the younger townsfolk ask him to do something about the horrible smell emanating from Emily’s house, he exasperatedly chastises them for so much as thinking to confront an aristocratic lady like Emily about “smelling bad.”
Last Updated on November 8, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 34
Old lady Wyatt is Emily’s great-aunt, who died prior to the events of the story. Allegedly, she was “crazy,” and the townspeople seem to believe that mental instability runs in the Grierson family.
Last Updated on November 8, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 88
When Emily and Homer begin to court in public, some of the locals feel that the unconventional pair will set a bad example for the children. They approach the Baptist Minister and ask him to speak with Emily. He does so but is unsuccessful in breaking the pair up. He also refuses to tell anyone how the conversation went. The minister’s wife then decides to reach out to Emily’s estranged family in Alabama in the hopes that they will intervene in Emily and Homer’s relationship.
Last Updated on November 8, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 51
The druggist supplies Emily with the arsenic that she ostensibly uses to murder Homer Barron. Rather than forcing Emily to tell him what she plans to use the rat poison for, as is custom, he gives it to her unquestioningly as a show of respect, assuming that she is killing rats.
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