William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” is an intriguing tale of the life and death of Emily Grierson, who ends up killing her male companion, Homer Barron. A motive is not stated by the narrator, but when read critically a motive can be found. Several Literary critics have proposed different motives of why Emily Grierson killed Homer Barron. Some say that Homer was going to jilt Emily. Although homer was the not the marrying type, there is no evidence that homer was going to leave her. Another motive was that homer was gay. This motive was taken out of context; homer enjoyed being a bachelor, drinking with the guys at the local bar. Homer filled the void left by her Father, Mr. Grierson, since Homer and Mr. Grierson were very similar character. Yet, Homer probably never intended to marry Emily right away, since he was not the marrying type. Emily could not deal with another man leaving her alone. What can also be taken into consideration was that Emily had an image and the Grierson family name to uphold. I believe that Emily Grierson’s motive to kill Homer Barron is because Emily rather had been with a dead man instead of being by herself, why does Emily kill Homer.Order now
Mr. Grierson was from the “old south”. Not much was said about him directly. An image by the narrator describes Mr. Grierson overprotecting Emily; “Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door…”(308) The Grierson were an upper class family in the town of Jefferson. He scared away any person trying to ask out Emily on a date. He prevented Emily to experience a normal life. All Mr. Grierson wanted was for Emily to stay as his housekeeper. In his critical essay, Jack Scherting uses Sigmund Freud Freudian Principal of Oedipal to describe Emily’s relationship and attachment with her father.
Emily’s father, Mr. Grierson, compressed Emily sexual nature and in return Emily grows attach to him. So when Mr. Grierson dies, Emily rejects the idea of her father being dead. He writes that “Emily’s subsequent behavior clearly shows that the death of her father was a piece of reality disavowed by her ego”. (400) When the women of Jefferson go to pay respect, Emily responds by saying that “her father was not dead.”(308) She of course was in denial. For three whole days, she preserved Mr. Grierson body in their home. Emily shortly after broke down after every person in town tried to persuade her to let go of Mr. Grierson’s body. Scherting says that Emily simply just didn’t “broke down” he explains that “Faulkner’s use of the phrase “broke down” does not mean Emily consciously acknowledged the reality of her father’s death…Signaled a retreat from that reality into the defenses of her own psyche. Emily regressed into her childhood.” (400) In short, Emily sort of became this orphan who needed a male who resembled her father. It is not a surprise as Scherting says “…that Miss Emily’s libidinal attachment to her father was soon transferred to a surrogate male”. (401) That male of course was Homer Barron.
Homer Barron was a northerner foreman for a construction company who came to Jefferson to build sidewalks and roadways. Homer seemed to have been a hated person yet a popular person to gossip about. He was the center of attention “whenever you heard a lot of laughing about the square, Homer Barron would be in the center of the group.”(309) He was seen around town with Emily on Sundays. This was Emily’s first “relationship” after all, Emily was past her prime, she was past 30 years old and forbidden to be involved with the opposite sex due to her father. Homer was basically her first love. He was a strong male figure that filled the void left by her father, Mr. Grierson. Yet like most bachelors, Homer Barron was a guy. Homer liked to hang out with the guys and drink and such. He was not the marrying type. Homer and Mr. Grierson could be considered similar. Scherting point out that both were described to be “…strong willed men, and in separate scenes, both are described holding horsewhips.”(401)
Emily Grierson represented the old south in a new era where old traditions where fading away, the last of a dying breed. The men admired her and the women talked about her. She was Jefferson’s modern day celebrity in a sense. And like any other celebrity she was look at to set an example, as well as to serve as a topic of gossip. Dating Homer, a northerner, of course was not normal in the southern tradition nor would have it been pleasing to the Grierson family image. As Emily and Homer were continued to be seen in public, the gossip continued. The women of Jefferson were somewhat disgusted with their relationship. They sent the minister to guide Emily, which did not work. The next step was to call on the Grierson relatives that resided in Alabama.
The Grierson family was considered the upper class of the town of Jefferson. Homer, a “Yankee” from the north, would be displeasing to the family’s name. Emily and her father lived on a “select street” as Faulkner described. The Grierson’s were looked down upon, almost hated for the way they thought about their status as upper class, the town believed “that the Griersons held themselves for a little too high for what they really were.” Faulkner never included what exactly happen when Emily’s relatives came to visit. The relatives were only described to be “even more Grierson than Miss Emily had ever been”. Scherting came to a conclusion that “it was logical to assume that they forced her to make a choice: either marry Homer or stop carrying on with him.”(402)
What drives Emily to kill homer? Sexual Politics plays another factor. The fact that not only did Mr. Grierson prevented her to interact with the opposite sex; he made her a victim and dominated her all throughout her life. The Town also played a part in sexual Politics. The town men felt sorry for her, especially after she refused to acknowledge her father’s death. Colonel Sartoris even went as far as letting her live tax free. They let Emily purchase the rat poison, which she used to murder Homer Barron. The town also did not confront her on the stench that several neighbors complained about, which in reality was the decaying corpse of Homer Barron.
Instead they covered up the stench with lime. Emily has always been referred to Miss Emily Grierson; Judith Fetterley says “…her status as a lady is a cage from which she cannot escape. To them she is always Miss Emily; she is never referred to and never thought as otherwise.”(Fetterley) Emily was no longer dependent of her father Mr. Grierson nor married. The Jefferson residents treated Emily as a burden, therefore allowed her to do whatever she wanted. Fetterley continue to say “Not only is “A rose for Emily” a supreme analysis of what men do to women by making them ladies; it is also an exposure of how this act in turn defines and recoils upon men.”(Fetterley)
Since Homer was a bachelor and not ready to marry Emily, the only way she could have him and at the same not disgracing the family name by marrying a northerner or go against southern tradition was to kill Homer. That way she could have homer and not be alone, while still upholding her image and the Grierson’s family name. Emily probably killed Homer with rat poison although it is not stated how exactly homer was killed. All is known is that Homer entered through the kitchen door and never came out. In the end, even if Emily motive was to kill homer, Homer is not the victim. It is Emily who is the victim. Emily slept next to homer for 40 years in the upstairs bedroom. After her death, it is at that moment when the men of Jefferson break down the shut door of the upstairs bedroom and see the remains of Homer, that they realize what harm was done to Emily. I think William Faulkner appropriately titled this story “A rose for Emily” simply to give compassion to Emily, since no one ever gave it to her.