A Rose for Emily Summary

  • Last updated on March 25, 2021
"infobox Book "
name A Rose For Emily
image caption Tale Blazers Edition
author William Faulkner
country America
language English
genre(s) Southern Gothic
publisher TaleBlazers
release date 1930
media type Short Story
pages 36
A Rose for Emily is a short story by American author William Faulkner, first published on April 30, 1930. This story takes place in Faulkner's fictional city, Jefferson, in his fictional county of Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. It was Faulkner's first short story published in a national magazine.

A Rose for Emily recounts the story of an eccentric spinster, Emily Grierson. An unnamed narrator details the strange circumstances of Emily’s life and her odd relationships with her father and her lover, the Yankee road worker Homer Barron. She is seen buying arsenic, which the townspeople believe she will use to commit suicide with. After this, Homer Barron is not heard from again, and is assumed to have returned north.

Though she does not commit suicide, the townspeople of Jefferson continue to gossip about Emily and her eccentricities, citing her family's history. She is heard from less and less, and rarely ever leaves her home. Unbeknownst to the townspeople until her death, hidden in her upstairs bedroom is Homer's corpse. This explains the horrid stench that emitted from Miss Emily's house 40 years previously. By finding a single gray hair in the bed, the townspeople discover that Emily had been sleeping with the corpse.

Character Summaries

Emily Grierson

A tragic figure. It is implied Emily killed Homer and kept his body in her house, sleeping next to it each night.

Homer Barron

Homer and Emily have a relationship which scandalizes the town because of their differences in station. It is implied that Homer is poisoned by Emily, and his body remains in her house for forty years.

Detailed Plot Summary

Section One

Emily Grierson passes away and her funeral is described by the narrator. Emily’s house used to be in the middle of an elegant neighbourhood, but it has all gone to rack and ruin. Emily did not pay taxes because the previous mayor had suspended the payments after Emily’s father died (as he had donated a large amount of money to the community). As new mayors come and go, they all try to get Emily to pay her taxes, but none are successful. When even members of the Board of Alderman come to her door, Emily is adamant that she does not have to pay taxes, and asks the men to leave.

Section Two

Thirty years ago, Emily was investigated because of a strange smell coming from her house. Emily is alone, having been abandoned by her supposed fiancé and her father having passed away. Complaints continue to the point where Judge Stevens (the town’s mayor at the time) has lime sprinkled along the foundation of Emily’s house at night, unawares to her. The odour does go away eventually.

Everyone pities Emily because she is all alone and never goes outside. This is similar to what happened to her great aunt, who went insane. Most people in the town think that the Griersons were too proud, and now that has resulted in Emily having nobody to marry despite being thirty years old.

When Emily’s father dies, the women of the town come to console Emily, however, she refuses to believe that her father is dead. This keeps up for three days until she finally relinquishes her father’s body so it can be buried.

Section Three

After her father passes, Emily is ill for along time. She begins a relationship with Homer Baron, who is contracted to pave the sidewalks of the town. Despite Emily no longer being as reclusive, the town still pities her, because they all believe Emily to be dating someone beneath her.

Emily’s reputation is tarnished by her relationship with Baron. She purchases arsenic, but does not disclose how she will use it (despite being required to by law).

Section Four

Most of the people in the town think that Emily will kill herself with the poison. It seems unlikely that she and Homer will be married, despite the fact they go out together every Sunday. Some women convince the Minister of the town to talk to Emily, but something happens there that makes the Minister refuse to return, although he never speaks of it. Emily’s cousins arrive from Alabama after being requested by the Minister’s wife. They come and stay for a long time.

It eventually seems as if Homer and Emily will be married, although Homer is not seen for a while. It is assumed that he is organising things for the wedding, or that he doesn’t want to be around her cousins.

The cousins leave and Homer returns, but never emerges from the Grierson home after calling in to visit one night. Emily never leaves the house, growing old and fat. She very rarely talks to anyone, never pays her taxes, and eventually dies of old age.

Section Five

When Emily dies, her house is opened up for her funeral. The upstairs floor, which Emily had stopped using, has a room upstairs with items for a wedding. The room also has Homer’s decayed body on a bed, a bed that it appears that Emily slept on as well.

External Links

Categories: Short Stories