A Rose for Emily

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The “big, dark, ready” foreman of a construction company that arrives in Jefferson to pave the sidewalks, Homer is from the North but nonetheless becomes popular in town, a social drinker at the local Elks’ Club. His presence in Jefferson suggests the reunification of North and South after the Civil War, and he himself is an agent of progress and industrialization in a heretofore rigidly conservative community. Indeed, even Miss Emily falls for his charms, and the two become romantically involved with one another, riding together on Sundays in Homer’s “yellow-wheeled buggy” despite the townspeople’s judgmental gossip about his connection to the genteel Southern Miss Emily. However, Homer is “not a marrying man.” So, desperate to keep him with her, Miss Emily poisons Homer and keeps his corpse in her house, a ghastly husband indeed; it is evident that she lies next to and even embraces his rotting flesh.

Homer Barron Quotes in A Rose for Emily

The A Rose for Emily quotes below are all either spoken by Homer Barron or refer to Homer Barron. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Post Civil-War South Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Modern Library edition of A Rose for Emily published in 1993.
Section 3 Quotes

At first we were glad that Miss Emily would have an interest, because the ladies all said, “Of course a Grierson would not think seriously of a Northerner, a day laborer.” But there were still others, older people, who said that even grief could not cause a real lady to forget noblesse oblige—without calling it noblesse oblige.

Related Characters: The townspeople (speaker), Miss Emily Grierson, The townspeople, Homer Barron
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote comes after the death of Miss Emily's father, when Miss Emily begins to take a romantic interest in Homer Barron.

The division in Jefferson between the attitudes of the young and the old, the progressives and the conservatives, is complicated here. The younger people think it good that Miss Emily has a romantic interest, precisely because they don't think it is serious. The older people, those who fully experienced the South's defeat in the Civil War and its humiliations, know firsthand, however, that grief can override pride, and that Miss Emily may indeed be serious about Homer. "Noblesse oblige" means, literally, "nobility obliges"—in other words, that one's conduct should match one's social position. It was a concept at the heart of the Southern aristocracy, and perhaps the old people can't refer to it by name without bringing back painful memories of what they've lost.

In Jefferson, public opinion is fickle; for eventually most everyone in Jefferson comes to disapprove of Miss Emily's interest in Homer. This suggests how arbitrary and meaningless social conventions really are when it comes to judging conduct—and how dangerously oppressive they can be. Miss Emily is so repressed by social convention, after all, that she resorts to murder in order to achieve self-determination. 

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Section 5 Quotes

For a long time we just stood there, looking down at the profound and fleshless grin. The body had apparently once lain in the attitude of an embrace, but now the long sleep that outlasts love, that conquers even the grimace of love, had cuckolded him.

Related Characters: The townspeople (speaker), Homer Barron
Page Number: 58-59
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote comes during Miss Emily's funeral. The townspeople politely wait for Miss Emily's corpse to be buried before they force their way into Miss Emily's room, and there they discover the corpse of Homer Barron, described here at length.

The phrase "profound and fleshless grin" adopts the dark, chilling, grotesquely ironic tone and diction of Gothic novels, which Faulkner often alludes to in his work. Faulkner relies on these technical means here in order to express the townspeople's shock and horror at discovering what Miss Emily has so long repressed. Homer's corpse is also an image for all the moral decay and ugliness of the Southern heritage which the townspeople repress through nostalgia and idealization. Miss Emily has slept with Homer's corpse for years, it would seem, just as the townspeople embrace their dead traditions.

A "cuckold" is a husband whose wife sleeps with another man. Homer Barron, the collective narrator says, has been cuckolded by death, in the sense that now Miss Emily sleeps with death and only with death—no longer with Homer, as time and death have wasted him away and replaced him altogether. The sexual freedom Miss Emily seemingly desired but was prohibited from in life she achieves, in a grotesque parody, after life. 

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Homer Barron Character Timeline in A Rose for Emily

The timeline below shows where the character Homer Barron appears in A Rose for Emily. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Section 2
Time and Narrative  Theme Icon
Gossip, Social Conventions, and Judgment Theme Icon
...years before—two years after her father’s death, and shortly after her sweetheart (later identified as Homer Barron) had deserted her—in the matter of a bad smell issuing from her house. Miss... (full context)
Section 3
The Post Civil-War South Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Patriarchal Authority and Control Theme Icon
...had contracted, arrived to pave the sidewalks in Jefferson, led by a big Yankee named Homer Barron, who came to know everybody in town. “Whenever you heard a lot of laughing... (full context)
The Post Civil-War South Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Patriarchal Authority and Control Theme Icon
Gossip, Social Conventions, and Judgment Theme Icon
...laborer from the North. Some older people, however, thought that Emily might be serious about Homer out of financial need. “Poor Emily,” they said, and they agreed that her kin should... (full context)
Section 4
The Post Civil-War South Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Patriarchal Authority and Control Theme Icon
Gossip, Social Conventions, and Judgment Theme Icon
...to kill herself with the arsenic, and agreed it was for the best, especially because Homer had once confided in some of the men in town over drinks at the Elks’... (full context)
The Post Civil-War South Theme Icon
Patriarchal Authority and Control Theme Icon
Gossip, Social Conventions, and Judgment Theme Icon
...Emily. Nothing changed at first, but soon the townspeople came to believe that she and Homer were to be married—especially after she went to the jeweler’s and ordered a man’s toilet... (full context)
The Post Civil-War South Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Patriarchal Authority and Control Theme Icon
Gossip, Social Conventions, and Judgment Theme Icon
The townspeople were not surprised when Homer Barron disappeared from Jefferson. They were disappointed that his departure was preceded by no public... (full context)
Section 5
The Post Civil-War South Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Patriarchal Authority and Control Theme Icon
Time and Narrative  Theme Icon
Gossip, Social Conventions, and Judgment Theme Icon
...a bridal.” On a table, they saw the man’s toilet Miss Emily had ordered for Homer Barron, and the articles of men’s clothing. In the bed lay Homer’s rotted corpse, which... (full context)