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The main character Emily Grierson, is defiantly odd by any average reader’s values, thus a character analysis could go in many different directions. It is pretty much impossible to inspect her in a mental as well as contextual light. Over the course of the story, Emily’s unpredictable and odd behavior becomes very weird. The townspeople (as well as the reader) are left trying to explain how Emily was able to sleep next to the corpse of Homer Barron for so many years and think nothing of it. Now the narrator tells us that the townspeople “did not say she was crazy” (Faulkner 78), and of course, she had never gone to a doctor for mental issues, so they had no way of thinking she was. However by the story’s close, the reader can go back through the story and spot several episodes in which Emily’s character and actions hinted at the chance of a mental illness, even if the town wanted to ignore these and think or her as a social idol. It’s reasonable to think that Emily developed a mental illness as a response to the demanding conditions as a Southern woman from an aristocratic family. While growing up she obviously didn’t develop normal coping and defensive mechanisms. Things that most people could handle, she couldn’t, and her mental state got worse over time.
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Emily lived many years as a loner; she withdrew from her community to live in isolation. The story skips a lot over time to different parts in her life, “She was sick for a long time. When we saw her againâ€¦” (Faulkner 78) “When we next saw Miss Emilyâ€¦” (Faulkner 80). Faulkner tries to characterize Emily’s seclusion through her actions. When her father died a lot of time passed till we saw her again, and when her relationship ended, again more time passed before we saw her again. Even though her father was a main key in her seclusion, her southern pride didn’t help either. “None of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily and such.”(Faulkner 77). She felt that she was above socializing with others in the community. If her father hadn’t of scared off every man who tried to court her, Emily wouldn’t have gone insane.
Homer is a lot like Emily in the sense that he’s an outsider, a stranger in a new town that likes to gossip. The main difference between them is that he’s a very charismatic person. It doesn’t take him long to be the person everyone wants to hang out with, or even date. Because this story takes place in the south a lot of people place distrust and look down on him because he’s a “northerner” and a “day laborer”. The Ironic part about this is that when he’s seen with Emily on their Sunday strides, people often think she’s lowering herself because she’s of very high class. As we learn more about Homer the narrator informs us that he is possibly homosexual “he liked me, and it was known that he drank with the younger men in the Elks Club-that he was not a marrying man” (Faulkner 79). When the roads were finished he left the town just like everyone thought he would, they knew what ever was going on between the two of them wouldn’t last. The last time anyone saw him was one night at dusk when the Negro servant let him inside Emily’s house.
Even though we never meet Mr. Grierson he plays a very important role in the story. His controlling presence looms over Emily’s life even after death. He made sure to drive away ever suitor that would come for Emily’s hand. The narrator never really goes into depth as to why, all we can really go on is “they weren’t good enough for her.” The only actual glimpse we get of him is the painting over the fireplace where he’s shown holding a horse whip (most likely just used on another man trying to talk to Emily) silhouetted in the doorway. He had driven himself so far into Emily’s life she wouldn’t believe he was dead, even after a week of his passing.
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Another minor character that we see throughout is Tobe, the house servant. His voice is rumored to be rusty from ever using it. He severs as Emily’s only lifeline to the outside world. Even when we go years without seeing her, we see him everyday going shopping and gathering things for the house. Everyone in the town tried for years to get him to talk about what happens in the house, and after years of getting nothing they stopped. After Emily’s death he lets the town people in for the funeral and leaves out the back door, to never be seen again.
The characters in this story painted a very dark a grim tale. Emily’s father had made her into a hermit, this she passed onto Tobe, and eventually to Homer (when she killed him). The townspeople never really knew how distressed Emily was until the very end of the story when we find out that not only did she keep Homer’s dead corpse in a bed for 40 years, but that she would sleep next to it as well.
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