Character Analysis of Emily Grierson: “A Rose for Emily”

Categories: A Rose For Emily

In “A Rose for Emily”, Emily Grierson is the enigmatic central character in the story. Initially full of life, her transformation into a reclusive and secretive woman after her father's death intrigues the townspeople, evoking both fascination and pity.

Emily Grierson was a southern belle who represented the old ways of the south. A woman, who was stubborn, unchanging and unable to let go of her haunting past took both her burdens and the old ways of the south to her grave.

Throughout the story the narrator refers to her as “Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty and a care, a sort of hereditary obligation on the town.” tradition meaning that she was sort of royalty to the towns people because her father was the mayor of the town. This “royalty” gave Emily a sense of entitlement which could be seen throughout the story. An example would be when we she went to the store to buy some poison, she wanted the strongest poison the owner had to offer which was arsenic, a type of rat poison.

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Although the druggist, by law has to know what she is going to use the poison for, Emily refuses to answer and continues to stare at the man until he decides to give her the arsenic.

This is one of the many examples of how Emily thinks she is somehow above the law and should not be questioned for her actions. Another example of her stubborn ways would be a few years later when she refuses to pay her taxes because Colonel Sartores said that she didn’t have to.

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She states that “ I have no taxes in Jefferson. Colonel Sartores explained it to me.” The sheriff continues to reason with her by informing her that the colonel sent a letter saying that she did in fact have to pay taxes but once again, she refuses to believe it because she is stubborn and stuck in her own ways.  This attitude of authority and entitlement was due the fact that her father was the mayor of the town and it was expected of everyone to showed respect. Not only was Emily entitled but she was also mentally unstable. It was thought that mental disorders ran in the family because her aunt was also mentally unstable as well.

It seems that she has this need to want to control everything because she had an aunt who was mentally unstable. Going back to the tax incident it turned out that the colonel has been dead for ten years and there would be no way of checking with him because of this, this apart of the story reveals that she seems to be living in her own reality that she is living in the past. Another example of this is when her father died, her father sheltered her a lot shooing away boys so she became very isolated early in life. When her father died, she clinged on to the very thing that kept her from living a life of her own because that was the only life she had ever had. This event seemed to have left her in a depressed state where she would never leave the house until she meets a man named Homer Baron. Baron was a Yankee or a man from the north who took an interest in Emily, they were often seen together in town and most people thought that they were married. When Emily found out that baron was not the “marrying type” she decided to take matters into her own hands and killed baron with arsenic so that he would never leave her.

Emily Grierson was an example of a way of life that was withering away. Miss Emily represented the old ways of the south and how they were dying off throughout the story. One prime example of this is when the Yankees from the north to help build new sidewalk for the town showing the readers that the times are changing and that the old ways of life are dying. Emily’s refusal to let go of the past and traditions represents what the old ways of the south were everything is preserved. The old ways of the south dealt with keeping up with tradition and preserving the past, which Emily, was also trying to preserve the shattered life that was left behind when her father died and any attempts to try and drag her out of the past and into the future were futile.

Works Cited

  • Cheuse, Alan, Delbanco, Nicholas (2012): Literature: Craft and Voice (second edition). New York, NY.
  • McGraw-Hill. Faulkner, William (1932): A rose for Emily:Literature: Craft and Voice (second edition). New York, NY.
  • McGraw-Hill. Maimon, E.P., Peritz, J.H., Yancey, K.B. (2012): The McGraw-Hill Handbook (Third edition). New York, NY. p.417;
Updated: Jan 30, 2024
Cite this page

Character Analysis of Emily Grierson: “A Rose for Emily”. (2016, Mar 05). Retrieved from

Character Analysis of Emily Grierson: “A Rose for Emily” essay
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