A Rose for Emily

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A short story by William Faulkner, published in Forum on 30 April, 1930.

The plot deals about an Antebellum lady, Emily Grierson, and the perceptions the people in the small town have about her. Miss Emily, raised by her Overprotective Dad, gets a Parental Marriage Veto so strong that when the man dies she finds herself unmarried at an age she couldn't get suitors. Due to this, and the signs that the poor woman has an increasingly tenuous grasp on reality due to oversheltering, she becomes a source for local gossip. Things get a turn for the interesting with the arrival of one Homer Barron, a Northerner who courted her, and whose ambiguous intentions and evident social disparity fuel the gossip. When Mr. Barron then disappears in mysterious circumstances, the gossip only increases.

For years, Miss Emily becomes the local "loony old lady", strange and temperamental but mostly harmless. So, when the woman finally dies, nothing prepares the town for the discoveries on her home when the local authorities get to retrieve her body...


Tropes used in A Rose for Emily include:
  • Affair Hair: The story ends with a strand of gray hair found next to a body that's been dead for decades.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Emily's hair changes at important points in the story.
  • Important Haircut: Emily cuts her hair after her Overprotective Dad dies.
  • I Love the Dead: The title character murders the man she wishes to marry, then lies next to him (long ago enough in the past for dust to settle, but recent enough that the hair on the pillow is gray); the corpse is also said to have been in an embracing position.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: The story is comprised of five parts which are mostly out of order. For those who don't pick apart and reassemble the events, whether Emily killed her beau, and why, is an perplexing matter. The fact that the narrator (implied to be the townspeople) has a severely limited understanding of Emily's personal life and occasionally relies on conjecture to guess at her actions doesn't help much either.
  • Love Will Lead You Back: Subverted, It is strongly implied that Emily murdered her lover and spent her time in "mourning" sleeping next to his corpse.
  • Mummies At the Dinner Table: Mummies in bed, even.
  • Noodle Incident: A clergyman is persuaded to call on the reclusive title character. "He would never divulge what happened during that interview, but he refused to go back again." Considering that Emily was harboring the decomposing corpse of a prospective husband, this is not surprising.
  • Overprotective Dad: The story paints the image of Emily in the background, and her father at the door with her back to her, bullwhip in hand. It is implied this is why she never got engaged.
  • Personal Effects Reveal: The inhabitants find her husband's possessions (she bought for him for their wedding) after her death. The long deceased owner is still present...
  • Rose-Tinted Narrative: Deconstruction of this trope applied to the antebellum southern US.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Tobe, Miss Emily's black servant, escapes from the place the minute after he informs the decease of his employer.
  • Yandere: Of the posessive variety, the eponymous Emily Grier fell in love with Homer Barron, a workman far below her (perceived) class. One day, he went in Emily's house and was never seen leaving. When Emily eventually passes away, her house is searched and it turns out she killed Homer with arsenic, dressed him in a suit, and kept the corpse on her bed.