Character Analysis of Emily Grierson in A Rose for Emily

Published: 2021-07-28
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Boston College
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Emily Grierson, referred to as Miss Emily in the story is the main character of A Rose for Emily, written by William Faulkner. Miss Emily is a proud woman born of a proud and aristocratic family. Miss Emily is conservative, lonely, stubborn and mentally and emotionally unstable. Her conservative and lonely nature can be attributed to the circumstances and traditions in which she was brought up. Furthermore, her stubbornness is evident as she imposes her own sense of conduct and law which ultimately helps reveal her emotional and mental instability.

Miss Emily can be described as lonely. From the story, it can be determined that Miss Emily was an only child. The author does not mention Emilys mother nor any siblings. The lack of mention of any other family members emphasizes how much Emily was her fathers daughter and reinforces how alone she was when her father was alive. Furthermore, Emilys father completely controlled her life by going as far as separating her from the rest of the town by making sure that she did not have any lovers thus did not marry. According to Emilys father, none of the young boys were good enough for Emily, as the townspeople remembered all the young men her father had driven away (Faulkner, 2012) when he died.

Miss Emily was also a traditional person. The story describes Miss Emily as a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town (Faulkner, 2012). As stated earlier, Miss Emily came from a family of great stature and wealth which meant that Emily was burdened with great expectation from the community. Miss Emily had a hereditary obligation to maintain certain conditions that had been established by prior generations. Such obligations are apparent when Miss Emily gets romantically involved with a laborer from the north named Homer Baron. However, this relationship was not expected to go on as a Grierson would not think seriously of a Northerner, a day laborer. According to the southern social convection, a woman from an aristocratic heritage should not marry a man of a lower class especially a man from the north as even grief could not cause a real lady to forget noblesse oblige (Faulkner, 2012).

Additionally, Miss Emily was stubborn and emotionally and mentally unstable. Upon her fathers death, Miss Emily stubbornly insisted that her father was not dead. She did that for three days (Faulkner, 2012). For this reason, she would not permit her fathers body to be removed and it was only when she broke down that the body was quickly removed before she could protest. Miss Emilys stubbornness is also evident in instances such as when she refuses to pay taxes constantly claiming that she had no taxes in Jefferson. Furthermore, when the whole town got mailboxes, Miss Emily alone refused to let them fasten the metal numbers above her door and attach a mailbox to it (Faulkner, 2012). Her stubbornness can also be associated with her mental instability. Her continued insistence that she does not owe any taxes to the town presents her as more than just a stubborn town eccentric.

Rather, by appearing before the town officials and going against the facts presented to her as well as refusing to listen to the aldermen at all and referring them to Colonel Sartoris if they wanted to proceed with the matter, only shows Miss Emilys compromised mental state. Her stubbornness and mental and emotional instability are also evident when she purchases poison from a pharmacy. When purchasing the poison, Miss Emily is described as lacking in affect and appears paranoid as she withheld information from the druggist on the reason for her purchase. Also, after being rejected by her love interest, Homer, she results to killing him and sleeping with his corpse for many years despite the fact that the body was decaying (Faulkner, 2012). Such actions reveal Miss Emily to be a necrophilia; she had an excessively controlling nature that led her to bond with unresponsive things, Homers corpse, that had not will and could not resist.

Ultimately, Miss Emily can be described as a lonely mentally unstable individual. Her character leads her to strange behaviors such as living in isolation, showing little to no emotions and practicing bizarre practices such as refusing with her fathers dead body and sleeping with her former love interests body. Although it is clear that Miss Emily is a sociopath and a murderer, her subsequent character was as a result of earlier circumstances that she had no control over as such she cannot be wholly blamed for her actions.


Faulkner, W. (2012). A Rose for Emily and Other Stories. New York City: Random House Publishing Group.

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