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The Character of Miss Emily in Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”


Miss Emily is an especially complex and interesting character who is undoubtedly worth deep consideration. In his short story, “A Rose for Emily,” William Faulkner introduces the woman who deserves sympathy despite multiple negative personal qualities. Even though readers do not know how Emily herself perceives her life and the world in general, they get much useful information from townspeople who attentively observe the woman’s life. They are appalled at the way the main character behaves and talks but clearly realize that her father shaped her habits and views; thus, they do not judge her strictly. After analyzing their views, it may be concluded that Miss Emily has become mad and extremely lonely due to her father’s negative impact.

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First, it is essential to pay more attention to Miss Emily’s father, who has significantly influenced the central character. This controlling male, who respects traditions and highly appreciates his social status, brings up his daughter on his own. The literary critic, Xiaojun, emphasizes that the father drives away all the pursuers and makes Miss Emily stay in the mansion (614). The man keeps his daughter to himself and imposes too much control on the child. It is noted, “the quality of her father which had thwarted her woman’s life so many times had been too virulent and too furious to die”(Faulkner 7). The father’s way of raising the protagonist impacts her mental development adversely and prevents her from effective interactions with other people. However, when the man dies, Emily behaves as if he is still alive and tries to keep his body (Asmarani et al. 28). The reason for it is that the main character has become extremely dependent on his control and failed to develop her own identity.

Nevertheless, Miss Emily makes some effort to minimize the impact of the past on her present life after her father’s death. According to Asmarani, Emily Grierson’s views and attitudes change slightly over time, and she tries to “leave the psychological shell that has locked her in decades”(26). Unfortunately, this shell is extremely strong; thus, the main character fails to live a normal life. Nevertheless, she changes her haircut and starts to date Homer Barron, who is an ordinary laborer. Emily rebels against her father while spending time with the man, who would certainly be rejected by the parent. Moreover, townspeople state, “she fitted up a studio in one of the downstairs rooms, where the daughters and granddaughters of Colonel Sartoris’ contemporaries were sent”(7). Miss Emily taught them china painting, even though Homer Barron’s corpse was present at her house at the same time. In general, Miss Emily tried to be different, though the pressure of the past was tremendous.

Furthermore, the impact of Miss Emily’s father led to loneliness and even madness in her adulthood. It is highlighted, “according to Freud, a famous psychologist, such stable reliance once broke, girls will be in a great depression and feel being abandoned” (Xiaojun 614). After her father’s death and the disappearance of Homer Barron, Miss Emily locks herself in the mansion and avoids going out. It is obvious that a person deprived of human interactions sooner or later gets some mental issues. The episode when the woman suggests her visitors consult Colonel Sartoris, which has been dead for almost ten years, surprises readers (Faulkner 3). The main character has lost touch with the real world and is no longer able to resume communication with others. The fact that she keeps the corpse of Homer Barron demonstrates the failure of her dreams (Asmarani 29). The mad and lonely individual cannot become an ordinary member of society due to the way she thinks, behaves, and talks.

Besides, Miss Emily has not succeeded in building her identity during her childhood and adolescence due to her father’s influence. Therefore, she is unable to handle various challenges and interact with others. Asmarani emphasizes that the main factor that hampered her identity development is definitely the father (25). Besides, the protagonist is not willing to leave her house, where she finds solitude and comfort. The absence of her developed identity makes the real world alien and full of serious challenges. Xiaojun believes, “the white wooden house is just like a cage built by the rotten plantation system, which isolates Emily from the emerging industrial civilization outside (614). Therefore, the main character fails to improve the situation and cannot control her own life even after her father’s death.


In conclusion, “A Rose for Emily,” written by William Faulkner, presents Miss Emily’s incredibly engaging character. Her father completely controls her, but after his death, the protagonist cannot deal with her own life due to her undeveloped identity. Hence, it leads to loneliness and madness, which isolate her from the townspeople. However, many readers feel sympathy for her, as they realize that certain circumstances have caused Emily’s current condition. The short story demonstrates how parents and society may break an individual and make their minds sick and perverted.


Asmarani, Ratna. “The Stunted Identity of Emily Grierson in A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner.” Journal of Cultural, Literary, and Linguistic Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, 2017, pp. 23-30.

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Bai, Xiaojun et al. “An Analysis of Emily’s Characters in A Rose for Emily from the Perspective of Narration.” Journal of Language Teaching and Research, vol. 11, no. 4, 2020, pp. 611-615.

Faulkner, William. A Rose for Emily. Perfection Learning, 1990.

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