In-depth analysis of some of the most popular short stories including summaries, character analysis, narrative technique, symbolism and much more.


Friday, September 6, 2013

Character Analysis: "A Rose For Emily"

A Rose for Emily Character Analysis
Image courtesy of Bergadder on

Character Analysis: Emily Grierson

Headstrong and rigid, Emily Grierson is the main character in William Faulkner’s “A Rosefor Emily”. One of the best examples of a flat character, Emily is stuck in both time and space never evolving in her views, or changing her interactions with wider society. This we see through various events in the story, the most prominent being her flat out refusal to pay her taxes. Other instances include her rejection of having a mailbox put up, and her slow acceptance of father’s passing. She has lost grip of reality and of those around her to the point, that she fails to realize that her most staunch defender, Colonel Sartoris, died close to a decade ago. While we notice a shift in the narrative voice throughout the story, Emily remains the same, stuck in the days of great white houses and the prestige of being a Grierson. Though her behavior may be viewed as merely eccentric, the narrator hints at the possibility that Emily is actually mentally unstable (something which is later revealed to be true when we discover she is a possible necrophiliac). When she purchases Arsenic at the local drugstore, the assumption was quickly made that Emily was planning to commit suicide. Emily not only refuses to bury her father after his death, the reader also discovers that she killed Homer Barron.The narrator blames Emily’s mental state on her Father who is portrayed as being extremely protective, never allowing Emily to interact with her male counterparts. Evidence of this can be found in the imagery established by the narrator, Emily in the background standing behind her father who holds a whip in one hand. This imagery shows him as the type that was never the kind to show fatherly affection, a stern man, something which might explain Emily's failure at interacting with those around her.

Despite her mental instability, Emily is also portrayed as a very strong woman. The narrator establishes this early on when he notes that Emily was buried among soldiers, and that the men of the neighborhood dressed in their Confederate uniforms to attend her funeral. Just as the story opens with this imagery it closes with it as well, with the discovery of her "iron gray hair" on the pillow.The narrator states that her hair turned an "iron gray" as she aged, suggesting that Emily had a hardness to her, that somehow she had been hardened by life. We again see her strength when we discover that Emily murdered Homer Barron and kept his for the rest of her life. The narrator describes that Emily “cockolded” him, dominating him in the end. Emily is often compared to Katherine Mansfield main character Miss Brill who like Emily, has lost her grip on reality.

Character Analysis: Homer Barron

Described as a smooth talking Yankee, Homer Barron is a construction worker who seems to take an interest in Emily as a possible suitor. We know little of Homer Barron before he moves to the town, we do know, however, that he is the exact opposite of Emily. Homer Barron is outgoing, friendly and very effervescent, the narrator notes that whenever there is any excitement in the town, Homer Barron can often be found in the middle of it.

Homer Baron develops what can only be thought of as a romantic relationship with Emily, and the narrator noted that they could often be seen driving around town. Things, however, do not develop any further causing the town to gossip about the cause for its slow development. Homer Barron’s decision to not marry Emily has been heavily debated,and it is mainly due to the narrator stating that he “not the marrying type and he prefers men.” The two common interpretations of that statement is that he is simply an alpha male who thoroughly enjoys the bachelor life, and the other being that he is a homosexual. While the latter interpretation may seem accurate in contemporary times, it does seem highly unlikely considering the fact that the people of the town are very conservative. They were shocked at the idea that Emily would marry a Yankee, and even forced the church’s involvement in his supposed premarital relationship with Emily. The narrator noted that the women  and elders viewed it as a negative influence on the youth. In such a close knit town, where all eyes seemed to be on their relationship, where gossiping even among men occurred, it seems highly unlikely that had he been gay, it would garner only a small statement on the part of the narrator. It is possible, however, that considering the nature of the topic, and also the possibility that the narrator was only reiterating rumors, the narrator thought it better to only hint at it, than to outright make such a claim. Also, though the most blatant, it may not be the only instance which the narrator hints at his homosexual lifestyle. Upon entering Emily’s room and finding a dead Homer Baron, the narrator does describe him as being “cockolded” a word which generally means emasculated. Taken in the context of when the story was written that description could have a double meaning. Homosexual or not we do know that Homer Barron and Emily never marry, something which eventually leads to him being murdered.

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