In the short storyA Rose for Emily, Faulkner uses the role of male figures in Emily’s life to provide important character traits. The two men in her life, her father, Mr. Grierson and her boyfriend Homer Barron lead her to become a shelled up, introverted and mysterious woman. Emily’s father is her first and most influential male figure, providing the foundation for her “insane”-type behavior in later years. Homer Barron comes along later and forces Emily to revisit the tyranny of her father and the negative experiences she had with men in her past. The relationship Emily had with her father in her early years led her to have faulty relationships with men and even humans in general throughout her entire life.
From the beginning of the story the reader gets the idea that the Grierson family is one of nobility and importance in Jefferson. Mr. Grierson apparently struck a deal with Mayor Col. Sartoris that the Grierson family would not have to pay taxes until the death of Miss Emily. This deal is one that Emily believes is to be kept, but the town quickly forgets it, showing that Mr. Grierson has put a strong sense of superiority into Emily. She believes it is to be kept, no matter what, because her family struck the deal(29).
Mr. Grierson is very obviously ‘”old South”. His attitude towards women, as evident in the treatment of his daughter, reflects his old-fashioned ways and his inability, or his lack of desire, to move on into the future. Throughout Miss Emily’s childhood, her father believed that “none of the men were quite good enough for Miss Emily”(31). Mr. Grierson did not allow his grown daughter, even at the age of thirty, to make her own decisions. Additionally, Emily did not feel it was her place to act on her own behalf. The name and attitudes that Mr. Grierson passes on to his daughter symbolically opposed the change that was going on around them.
This objection to change continues for Emily immediately after her father’s death, and thereafter. When her father dies Miss Emily denies his death to the visitors coming to console her. Although she is forced to give in and allow her father to be buried, the “crayon portrait of Miss Emily’s father” (29) further emphasized the great impact he had on her lifestyle and mindset.
The said impact that Mr. Grierson had on Emily haunted her later in life when she met a man of romantic interest. Homer Barron was a poor, “Yankee” who charmed Emily and brought her back out into the public during their courtship. The fact that Emily chose to even see Homer was intriguing as far as Mr. Grierson would have never allowed it when he was alive. She was trying to think for herself, and it allowed her to come out of her grief for her father as well as free her from her reserved nature. This state was short-lived, though, as she poisons Homer when it become apparent he does not plan to spend the rest of his life with Emily.
The fact that Emily poisons Homer and keeps the body in her house is a direct result of the way her father brought her up. She clings so tightly and is so needy of the men that she is unable to fathom life without them. She did not choose to be this way, nor did she desire to be so dependent on them. The strict, overpowering demeanor of Miss Emily’s father stuck with her for her entire life and eventually led to her failure to become a successful and mature woman.