Why is Homer Barron's role as a Northerner and construction foreman significant in "A Rose for Emily"?

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The setting of Faulkner's short story takes place in the southern town of Jefferson following the Civil War, which significantly affects how the local citizens perceive the northern foreman, Homer Barron. Emily is considered a southern aristocrat who hails from a prestigious family, and she symbolically represents the Old South. When Emily begins to date Homer Barron, her community members are appalled and disapprove of her dating a lowly "day laborer." The Jeffersonians subscribe to traditional southern views of marriage and believe that Emily Grierson is forgetting her "noblesse oblige." They feel that Emily is too far above Homer Barron’s social status to be in a relationship with him and is setting a bad example for the younger girls in her community.

Symbolically, Homer Barron represents northern industry following the Civil War, which expanded their businesses to the south after the Union victory. Essentially, the Jeffersonians view Homer Barron as a carpetbagger who does not deserve to court Miss Emily Grierson. There is immense social pressure from the citizens and Emily’s relatives for her to break up with Homer Barron. Tragically, Emily Grierson dismisses their concerns and ends up poisoning Homer Barron before he can skip town.

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The Grierson family was once considered a part of Southern aristocracy, and Emily has been brought up that way by her father, who thought that none of her suitors were good enough for her. He certainly would never have allowed a Yankee such as Homer Barron to marry his daughter. But Emily's father is dead, and Emily's marital prospects have long since vanished; so, Homer, being a new man in town, becomes the target of Emily's attentions. The fact that he is a Yankee and a modern-day carpetbagger means little to Emily at this stage in her life. Worse yet, Homer is a common day laborer--far removed from the wealthy aristocratic Southern gentleman that her father would have preferred. The pairing of Homer and Emily is much like a member of British royalty deciding to marry a commoner: It attracts attention because most royals have been brought up to marry other members of royalty. The townspeople of Jefferson thought Emily's romance was scandalous, at least in part because of Homer's own common, Northern roots.

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Why is it significant that Homer is a construction foreman and a Northerner in "A Rose for Emily"?

Homer Barron, who almost by default is the antagonist of the short story, "A Rose for Emily," is symbolized by many of his characteristics. First, the name: He has a common, folky first name, but a last name that has aristocratic implications (Barron vs. Baron). The fact that he is a day laborer, a construction foreman, sets him apart from the aristocratic Griersons. Unlike Emily, who considers herself "a little too high for what they really were," and makes no attempts at friendship with anyone (because she thinks most people are beneath her), Homer makes friends at every turn. The fact that he is a Yankee, and an outsider, makes him an inappropriate mate for Emily, who comes from Southern aristocracy. He works outside in the heat of the day, while Emily rarely leaves the darkness of her home. He works among the common man, and he enjoys their company. The fact that he is a construction worker symbolizes that he is part of the changing modern generation, destroying and rebuilding parts of ante-bellum Jefferson. Emily, of course, symbolizes the Old South and the unchanging values of the 19th century. Homer is said to prefer the company of men, another hint that Emily's desire for him to marry her will not be accepted. As for being a Northerner--a "damn Yankee"--Homer was still looked upon by many people as a "carpetbagger," a man who heads south to make a financial profit off the vanquished Southerners. Northerners were still hated and distrusted by many Southerners of the time--there are still Civil War veterans in the town who keep the hatred of the North alive--and Homer may well have been completely reviled by the people of Jefferson if not for his warm personality and ease at making friends. Emily's choice of Homer for a possible spouse made it obvious to many people that he was a desperate last chance at marriage for a woman who had long since run out of other options.

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