The Mysterious Emily Grierson

In the short story, “A Rose for Emily”, Faulkner expresses major feelings of horror, pity, and isolation through the main character, Emily Grierson. Emily is described as a mysterious, stubborn, and lonely woman, whose peculiar actions intrigue the townspeople, who once saw her as a friendly and glittering young woman.

Through the entire story, Emily Grierson is mysterious. Once a lively and well respected young woman, Emily changes dramatically after her loved ones, her fiance and father, pass away. “After her father’s death she went out very little; after her sweetheart [Homer] went away, people hardly saw her at all” (307). Her physical appearance also changes. She is sick, with her hair cut short, and her body bloated. Many instances suggest not only to the reader, but also to the nosy townspeople, that Emily is very mysterious.

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The citizens of the town try to connect with Emily, even reach out to her, but they quickly discover that she will not respond. “The day after his [Emily’s father] death all the ladies prepared to call at the house and offer condolence and aid, as is our custom. Miss Emily met them at the door, dressed as usual and with no trace of grief on her face. She told them her father was not dead” (308). For the rest of her life, Miss Emily remains connected with her loved ones, in more ways than one.

Emily Grierson has a stubborn personality. She becomes even more strong-willed after her loved ones die. At the beginning of the story, when confronted by the town authorities, Emily stands her ground and refuses to pay taxes since she had been excused from them. One day, She visits the town druggist to purchase poison. “‘Arsenic, is that a good one?'” Emily asks the druggist.

“‘Is…arsenic? Yes ma’am. But what you want- ”’ “‘I want arsenic.'” Emily quickly retorts. Emily’s controlling and stubborn behavior reflects back to her dead loved ones, when Faulkner implies that she keeps Homer Barron in the basement of her house. Once Emily Grierson’s loved ones pass, she becomes extremely isolated.

Her father leaves her a house, which she is the only one living in. Though the tragedy leaves her isolated and anti social, she chooses to remain that way. The only person Emily has much contact with is a negro man whom she hires to shop and run errands for her; she refuses visitors and rarely steps outside of her home. “…for almost six months she did not appear on the streets” (312). The death of her father and Homer leaves Emily mentally insane and alone.

Throughout this eerie story, Faulkner describes Emily as a strong person, who is mysterious, stubborn, and isolated. These character traits intensify when her loved ones leave her. Through these tragedies in her life, she refuses to let go, and this negatively changes how she lives her life forever. Emily Grierson is an example to others that one should move on with their life, even through hard times and tragedies.