What is the conflict in "A Rose for Emily" and who is the antagonist?

Quick answer:

The narrator is the protagonist, and Miss Emily is the antagonist.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

If Miss Emily is the protagonist, it could be argued that one of the people standing in the way of her happiness—and therefore her antagonist —is Homer Barron. It would be easy to overlook a murder victim as an antagonist, but there is evidence that Homer was taking advantage...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

of Miss Emily in some ways.

The narrator remarks that Homer himself had remarked that he preferred the company of men. He often could be found drinking with younger men in the Elks' Club. And he has remarked that he is not a "marrying man." So what is he doing spending so much time with Miss Emily? Likely, he enjoyed her relative status in society and was granted some free entertainment through Miss Emily, and it seems that he was stringing her along with no real intentions of a more serious commitment. I wouldn't argue that he deserved to be murdered, but it is possible that he confided in Miss Emily that he really didn't care about her in the way she expected before he left town. Thus, he presents as her adversary.

One of the central conflicts is Miss Emily versus herself. She has a hard time accepting change and reality. When her father dies, she refuses to acknowledge it. She seems to fall in love with Homer Barron, a man who is likely gay. When tax collectors come, she refuses to acknowledge that she owes money. To her credit, Miss Emily is convincing enough that society generally gives her what she wants, yet this supports the delusional reality that she creates for herself, ending in a solitary life with a dead man stored away in her bedroom for decades to further avoid facing the results of change.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I think the primary conflict is Miss Emily versus society, though a secondary one is Miss Emily versus her father, and they are both inextricably linked. Miss Emily's father is her first antagonist, as he prevents her from marrying anyone during his lifetime—"None of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily and such"—and then he dies, leaving her alone, older than the typical bride and fearful of abandonment in a changing world. She seems to have been in such denial over her father's death that she turned people away from her home for three days, telling them that he was not dead. The narrator says, "We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will." Even the town seems to recognize how Miss Emily's father's hopes for her were at odds with her own, preventing her from marrying someone who could comfort her as she aged.

Both her father and Miss Emily herself clung to an outmoded, antebellum Southern aristocratic ideal. The narrator describes the way in which the world had moved on, though Miss Emily and her father never really did:

garages and cotton gins had encroached and obliterated even the august names of that neighborhood; only Miss Emily's house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps.

Like her house, Miss Emily represented an old "tradition" and "a duty" to the town. Like a relic from another era, Miss Emily remained the same while the rest of the South moved on. This is why society can be considered her primary antagonist, though she seems to take up with Homer Barron to spite both the townsfolk and her own, dead father, who would have hated the loud, laboring Yankee.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One conflict found in Faulkner's short story "A Rose for Emily" is a Person vs. Society conflict between Miss Emily and the town of Jefferson. The townspeople criticize Miss Emily when she begins dating a northern named Homer Barron. The citizens disapprove of Miss Emily's relationship and even petition her relatives to persuade her to break up with Homer. Another conflict that takes place in the story is a Person vs. Person conflict between Miss Emily and Homer Barron. Miss Emily is traumatized after the death of her authoritative father and does not want Homer Barron to leave her. In order to prevent Homer from skipping town and breaking up with her, Miss Emily purchases arsenic and fatally poisons him.

While Miss Emily is clearly the protagonist of the story, she is also Homer Barron's antagonist. She is considered his antagonist because she ends up murdering him. One could also argue that the community members of Jefferson are also the antagonists of the story. They not only inflict unnecessary peer pressure on Miss Emily for dating Homer Barron but also spread unflattering gossip about her. Another argument can be made that Miss Emily is her own antagonist. Miss Emily's mental illness influences her to remain secluded in her home for an extended period of time and is a motivating factor to kill her lover and sleep with his corpse.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

To me, the conflict in this story is between Miss Emily and society.  That means that, for me, society is the antagonist.  I think you could also say that her father is an antagonist, but I think he's just representing society as a whole.

I think that the conflict is between society and Miss Emily because she is fighting against the expectations that society has for her.  The townspeople want her to do various things, but she rejects them.  Society in the form of her father also kind of ruined her life and led her to end up killing Homer Barron.

One other possibility is that Miss Emily is her own antagonist and that a major conflict is between her and herself.  She seems to be fighting with herself over whether she wants to have a life or whether she just wants to stay "safe" in her little cocoon of a world.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "A Rose for Emily," who or what is the antagonist?

I think an important question to ask before we discuss the antagonist is who is the protagonist? In response to your question, I would actually argue that Miss Emily Grierson is the antagonist and that the first-person plural "we" who narrates the story is the protagonist. The plot does convey portions of Miss Emily's life, but it more closely follows the thought processes and reactions of the community to Miss Emily's actions. This is one major reason why the story is not told in chronological order. If the narration followed Miss Emily's life's events, rather than the community's response to the events which it can observe, then it seems more likely that it would be written in the order in which she lived them, and it would likely have been revealed to us much sooner that she murdered Homer Barron with poison. However, because her community is the real protagonist, the narrative discusses events as and when they understand them, rather than when they actually take place.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "A Rose for Emily," who or what is the antagonist?

An antagonist can refer to a person, a group of people, an institution, a situation, or any circumstance that opposes the protagonist or lead character in a literary work. In terms of this definition, the lead character, Miss Emily Grierson, is opposed by many.

The city authorities are definitely antagonists. They have constantly been harassing her about unpaid taxes. Miss Emily, however, refuses to give in to their demands and states that she has no taxes and that the authorities have to speak to Colonel Sartoris, the town mayor who originally exempted her from paying any taxes because her father had lent the town some money. The colonel has long passed away, but Miss Grierson refuses to budge. The authorities send her a tax notice every year until her death without ever getting a positive response.

The townspeople, especially Miss Emily's neighbors, are also antagonists. They perpetually gossip about her and continuously express disdain about her and the fact that the Griersons hold "themselves a little too high." The inhabitants are clearly jealous of the family and vent their resentment and ill-feeling behind closed doors. Their expressions of pity whenever she encounters some misfortune are mere platitudes and more condescending than sincere.

Some of her neighbors lodge complaints against her for the stench emanating from her house. This encourages the authorities to send out men to secretly inspect her premises and saturate them with lime. The unpleasant smell eventually disappears.

Miss Emily's two cousins can also be seen as antagonists since their sole purpose seems to be to restrict her freedom. The text also suggests that she finds their presence an unwelcome intrusion. We are informed:

... to give her a chance to get rid of the cousins. (By that time it was a cabal, and we were all Miss Emily's allies to help circumvent the cousins.)

This is patent evidence that she does not want them around and that she wants to focus on Homer Barron's interest in her. Homer's declaration that he is not the marrying kind might make him an antagonist. Miss Emily obviously likes him or even, in her own way, loves him. When she realizes that he has misled her (or perhaps that she has misled herself) and that he will not be hers, she decides to permanently claim at least his body by killing him with arsenic and sleeping next to his corpse.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Who is the protagonist in "A Rose for Emily"?

Emily Grierson is the protagonist, aka the main character, of the short story "A Rose for Emily." The tale opens with the death of the main character, but through the narrator's reflections, we learn the gruesome and sad details of her lonely life.

Emily suffered two losses one right after the other. Her father died, and shortly after, the man she thought she would spend her life with left her. These events caused Emily to become a recluse which meant the town folk never saw her out and about. She kept a servant that ran errands and cooked for her so she never had to leave the house. Her entire narrative became speculation and gossip.

On top of the physical loss of her father, financially, she fell on hard times after his passing. Colonial Sartoris, the mayor at the time, felt bad for her and made up a lie about a loan to ensure she had enough money to live. Once a well-known name in the aristocracy, Emily now is bordering poverty and spends her hours locked away in her home. Her only companion becomes Homer Barron, the foreman of a town construction project. Their relationship was the talk of the town before and after her death as they find his body rotting in a bed in her home.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Who is the antagonist in the story "A Rose for Emily"?

Emily Grierson is a woman, who during her childhood, was kept away from society and as she got older, from male suitors. She lives with her father until he dies. She hides his death, but eventually the town finds out. Emily then has a mysterious illness for quite sometime. She comes out of her grief stricken state and meets a man named Homer Barron. He is in town to do some construction work and make sidewalks for the town.

Emily and Homer are seen around town and the townspeople begin to assume they are involved. Homer tells his friends that he is not the marrying kind. People begin to think the relationship is scandalous. Emily is seen buying male toiletries with Homer's monogram on them, so the town then goes back to talking about the upcoming wedding. Emily is seen going into the pharmacy and buys arsenic, which is sent to her house labeled for rats. Homer has been out of town, but comes back and is seen going into Emily's house and never seen again. Emily becomes a recluse and closes off the top floor of her house. Only her servants are seen going in and out of the house. She lives that way until she is in her 70's. When the authority's go into the house, they break down the door to the upstairs and find the decaying body of Homer. The room had been turned into a shrine for a wedding. There they see the impression on the pillow next to Homer, and they find a strand of gray hair belonging to Emily.

In any story a murderer is considered the antagonist. Obviously Emily is the clear antagonist of the story, but the town can be seen as one as well. The townspeople had a way of gossiping about Emily and what was going on in her life. They had a part in her madness. The sad thing is most small towns are still like this and I am sure there is an Emily just waiting to come out. 

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "A Rose for Emily," if Miss Emily is the protagonist, who is the antagonist?

The collective town of Jefferson could be considered the antagonist throughout the short story "A Rose for Emily." The citizens of the town view Emily as a peculiar, intriguing individual and do not genuinely seem to care about her. Despite the fact that Homer Barron brings Emily happiness, they disapprove of her relationship and talk behind her back. They feel that Emily is too good for a Northern laborer and even petition a Baptist minister to talk to Emily after she agrees to marry Homer. The newer generation of aldermen also confront Emily about not paying her taxes, and they do not investigate the disappearance of Homer. The town members also sit idly by as Emily struggles with her mental illness. They do not offer her help or support of any kind and choose to watch her from a distance. 

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "A Rose for Emily," if Miss Emily is the protagonist, who is the antagonist?

If one were to name an antagonist, I think it would have to be the Old Southern Traditional society. Emily, as a member of a family with high social standing, has certain expectations placed on her by society. She is not expected to work, but to marry well and have a family. However, he father prevented her marriage to anyone while he was alive. He leaves he little money and she is no longer young when he dies. Thus, the expectations of the town are really unrealistic. When she takes up with Homer Barron, everyone expects they will marry in spite of his statement that he "likes men." This puts Emily is a real bind. She has no money, a boyfriend who won't marry her and a town who expects her to marry. Yet they provide little support and much judgement about her behavior. Therefore, there is little wonder she took matters into her own hands and lost some of her sanity because no one took the time to approach her on a close level.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "A Rose for Emily," are there several antagonists?

One could argue that there are several antagonistic forces at work in Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily."  First, the obvious antagonist in the story is the culture of the town that impedes Miss Emily's character and causes her to live as a recluse.  She appears to not want to be judged by the townspeople and as a result closes herself off from them.

However, other forces in the story are antagonistic such as Homer Barron and Emily's father.  These men attempt to form and mold Emily according to their own whims and beliefs.  They do nothing to nurture her character.  But Emily is perhaps her own antagonist--she cannot deal with her personal sense of loneliness, and she allows her feelings to consume her.  Loneliness leads Miss Emily to commit murder and from this she never recovers.

Last Updated on