There are four main characters in A Rose For Emily including Emily herself. Her controlling and overbearing father, Mr. Grierson. Her low-born northern love interest Homer Barron who mysteriously disappears. And Colonel Sartoris, the old-fashioned mayor of the town at the time of Mr. Grierson’s death. Let’s get into the in-depth A Rose For Emily characters analysis!
The Main A Rose for Emily Characters
Emily Grierson is the main protagonist of the story. She is an aged southern belle clinging to the past while the times and people change around her. She is the last member of an old Southern aristocratic family in the antebellum South. Over the course of the story, she transforms from a young and bright girl to a withered old spinster.
Her father gives her an extremely sheltered life in her youth in accordance with the old traditions. Her high status means that no suitor was ever good enough according to her father. She lives under his thumb, following his rules and wishes till he dies. Emily refuses to believe that her father is dead for 3 full days before she lets the ministers take his body away. His death leaves her without any way of supporting herself, with no friends, and no family. She is initially pitied by the townspeople, especially by the older generation who still believe in the old traditions, but she is eventually considered an eccentric worthy of scorn.
After the death of her father, Emily starts a romance with a Northern worker far below her station. At first, people find this relationship amusing, but as time progresses and the relationship gets more serious, their attitude changes. As a northerner of low station, the relationship between Homer Barron and Emily Grierson is considered improper. Homer apparently abandons Emily after which she becomes almost completely reclusive.
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Over the next few decades, she becomes a mysterious figure in town, a relic of the past. A previous mayor had taken pity on her and waived her taxes, and when the new politicians approach her for taxes she tells them no. She doesn’t let officials put a mailbox on her property and apart from teaching children painting in her 40s, keeps to herself.
A few years after Homer leaves her, the townspeople notice an odd smell coming from her house that intensifies over the years. They approach the mayor to look into things, but out of respect for her station, he does nothing. When she dies, her house is finally opened to the public. They find the 40-year-old corpse of Homer lying in a bed with the indentation of a head on the pillow next to him.
Homer Barron is a young man from the North who comes to town to help pave the sidewalk. Though he is of low social status as a northerner, his charm and humor make him well-liked by the locals. He starts escorting Emily to events and eventually, it becomes clear that the two of them are courting. Homer represents everything the South isn’t, he doesn’t believe in the old traditions and he doesn’t believe in marriage. His relationship with Emily is disliked by the people, but after 2 years the townspeople just want them to get married. It seems like Homer chooses to abandon Emily rather than settle down and get married, but his gruesome fate is revealed only when Emily dies 40 years later. Rather than lose another important man in her life, she chooses to kill him with rat poison and sleep next to his decaying body her entire life.
Mr. Grierson is Emily Grierson’s overbearing and protective father. He believes in the traditions of the old south and believes that his aristocratic heritage makes him and his daughter better than everyone else. He rejects all the potential suitors for Emily because none of them are good enough and doesn’t let her have any friends. Emily is so dependent on her father that when he dies, she refuses to believe it for three days. Even after his death, a painting of him dominates the parlor, a constant reminder of her controlling father.
Colonel Sartoris is the mayor of the town when Emily’s father dies. He is also a believer in the old traditions as made evident when he passes a law that requires black women to wear an apron if they go out in public. Out of respect for Emily’s position in society, when Emily’s father dies, he arranges it so that Emily never has to pay taxes.
The Minor A Rose for Emily Characters
Tobe is Emily’s servant who takes care of all her needs. He is the only person who enters the house for decades, and as Emily ages and gets more reclusive, he starts doing all the outdoor tasks. The townspeople ask him many questions about Emily and the smell emanating from the house, but he tells them nothing. After Emily dies, he quietly leaves the town.
The Baptist Minister
When the townspeople get upset about Emily’s improper relationship with Homer, they approach the Baptist minister and ask him to intervene. He speaks to Emily but to no avail.
The Baptist Minister’s Wife
When the Minister fails, his wife calls Emily’s cousins to come and talk sense to her.
The cousins are estranged family members from Alabama who arrive after being contacted by the minister’s wife. Though the townsfolk are initially happy at their arrival, they soon become an annoyance to both Emily and the town.
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Judge Stevens is a well-respected member of the community, but he believes in the old ways. When the townspeople come to him asking him to inquire about the smell coming from Emily’s house he tells them it’s wrong to bother a lady of Emily’s status about bad smells.
Old Lady Wyatt
Lady Wyatt was Emily’s great Aunt who died many years ago. She was considered crazy and the townspeople believe that insanity may run in the family explaining Emily’s eccentric behaviour.
The druggist provides arsenic in the form of rat poison to Emily. Generally, he is supposed to ask what the purpose of the arsenic is, but as a show of respect for Emily’s station, he doesn’t do so.
To Sum Up
A Rose for Emily is celebrated American author William Faulkner’s first short story published in a national magazine. An example of Southern Gothic writing, it is considered one of his finest short stories. The characters in a Rose for Emily by William Faulkner represent the changes in the South after the civil war, with Emily representing the old days and her deterioration representing how those attitudes don’t fit with the modern world. Homer represents the modern and evolving North, as do the new politicians and townspeople that ask Emily for taxes and to put up a mailbox. By the end of the story, Emily is viewed as a relic of the past, a crazy old woman, who lives in a dilapidated but once-grand house.
Though A Rose for Emily is a short story, there are many layers to the tale including historical context and an analysis of the repercussions of the Civil War. If you need any assistance with A Rose For Emily characters analysis or help with any kind of homework, the experts at Studyfy are always eager to lend a hand!