Emily Grierson’s Need for Control in A Rose For Emily
In William Faulkner’s “A Rose For Emily,” Emily Grierson is a woman who is used to being controlled by her father. When her father dies, she believes that she has control over him. Forced to lay her father to rest, Emily turns to her father’s equivalent: Homer Barron. Emily soon finds that Homer does not plan on staying, so she decides to kill him. By killing Homer, Emily believes that she can keep him and control him forever. Emily Grierson wants to be in control but feels that she cannot tame the domineering men in her life, at least, not while they are alive, so she gains control of them after their demise.
One can clearly imagine the timid Emily standing behind her towering father. “Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip.” Emily’s father not only dominates the portrait but dominates Emily as well. Emily’s father controls her every move. She cannot date anyone unless her father approves, yet he never approves of any of the few men that do show interest in her. “None of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily and such.” Unable to find a good enough suitor, Emily has no choice but to stay and care for her governing father.
When her Father dies, Emily cannot bury him because she feels like she has finally tamed him. Emily’s father can no longer controll her. With his demise, Emily is now in control of her life, and in control of her father. The day after Emily’s father died, the local women pay a visit to Emily. “Miss Emily met them at the door, dressed as usual and with no trace of grief on her fac…
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… to keep him with her forever. “And that was the last we saw of Homer Barron.” No one saw Homer alive again.
Clearly, Emily was tired of men controlling her, and although she could not control them while they were alive, she did have complete control over them when they died. Thirty years after Homer’s disappearance and after Emily’s demise, the villagers made a gruesome discovery; they found the remains of Homer, proving that Emily found a way to keep him and control him. “For a long while we just stood there, looking down at the profound and fleshless grin.” Indeed, Emily kept her lover and controlled her lover for thirty years.
Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” The Norton Introduction to Literature. By Carl E. Bain, Jerome Beaty, and J. Paul Hunter. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1991: 69-76.