A Rose for Emily

Miss Emily Grierson Character Analysis

A proud woman born to a highly respected Southern family, Miss Emily seems frozen in the past, bearing herself aristocratically even when she is impoverished after her controlling father’s death. Though her thoughts and feelings are as impenetrable as the imposing, decaying house in which she lives, Miss Emily is nonetheless subject to intensive town scrutiny and gossip: the townspeople gossip about her haughtiness, her lack of a husband, and, in the days after her father’s death, her bizarre denial of his death and attempt to keep his corpse. But Miss Emily is not as frozen in the past as she first appears to be: after all, she becomes romantically involved with a laborer from the North named Homer Barron—despite the Southern social convention that women of genteel heritage not marry men of a lower class, especially men from the North. Ms. Emily seems to be, for the first time, taking control of her own life, despite what other people think. However, when it becomes apparent that Homer has no intention of marriage—which only further scandalizes the townspeople—Miss Emily goes to mad extremes to maintain control of her life: she poisons Homer, and not only lives with but sleeps next to his corpse, going so far as to create a tomb-like room for him where she can relive forever the one hopeful, self-determined period of her life. She becomes increasingly disconnected from her community, more and more reclusive, bloated-looking and pale, with “iron-gray” hair, more and more resistant to change; and it is only after her death and funeral that the townspeople realize how deeply, tragically damaged Miss Emily was.

Miss Emily Grierson Quotes in A Rose for Emily

The A Rose for Emily quotes below are all either spoken by Miss Emily Grierson or refer to Miss Emily Grierson. 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 1 Quotes

When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the woman mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old manservant—a combined gardener and cook—had seen in at least ten years.

Related Characters: The townspeople (speaker), Miss Emily Grierson, Tobe
Related Symbols: The Grierson Family House
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

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It [the Grierson family house] was a big, squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies, set on what had once been our most select street But garages and cotton gins had encroached and obliterated even the august names of the neighborhood; only Miss Emily’s house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps…

Related Characters: The townspeople (speaker), Miss Emily Grierson
Related Symbols: The Grierson Family House
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

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Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town…

Related Characters: The townspeople (speaker), Miss Emily Grierson
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.



Section 2 Quotes

“Dammit, sir,” Judge Stevens said, “will you accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad?”

Related Characters: Judge Stevens (speaker), Miss Emily Grierson
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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She told them that her father was not dead. She did that for three days… We did not say she was crazy then. We believed she had to do that. We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will.

Related Characters: The townspeople (speaker), Miss Emily Grierson, The townspeople, Miss Emily’s father
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum

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:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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She carried her head high enough—even when we believe that she was fallen. It was as if she demanded more than ever the recognition of her dignity as the last Grierson; as if it had wanted that touch of earthiness to reaffirm her imperviousness.

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

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Section 5 Quotes

…and the very old men—some in their brushed Confederate uniforms—on the porch and the lawn, talk[ed] of Miss Emily as if she had been a contemporary of theirs, believing that they had danced with her and courted her perhaps, confusing time with its mathematical progression, as the old do, to whom all the past is not a diminishing road but, instead, a huge meadow which no winter ever quite touches, divided from them now by the narrow bottle-neck of the most recent decade of years.

Related Characters: The townspeople (speaker), Miss Emily Grierson
Page Number: 58
Explanation and Analysis:

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Then we noticed that in the second pillow was the indentation of a head. One of us lifted something from it, and leaning forward, that faint and invisible dust dry and acrid in the nostrils, we saw a long strand of irony-gray hair.

Related Characters: The townspeople (speaker), Miss Emily Grierson
Related Symbols: Miss Emily’s Hair
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Miss Emily Grierson Character Timeline in A Rose for Emily

The timeline below shows where the character Miss Emily Grierson appears in A Rose for Emily. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Section 1
The Post Civil-War South Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Time and Narrative Theme Icon
Gossip, Social Conventions, and Judgment Theme Icon
...narrator, speaking in the first person plural that represents the entire town, recalls that, when Miss Emily Grierson died, all the townspeople of Jefferson, Mississippi, attended the funeral held in her house,... (full context)
The Post Civil-War South Theme Icon
Patriarchal Authority and Control Theme Icon
Time and Narrative Theme Icon
When alive, Miss Emily had been respected and cared for by the townspeople. In fact, in 1894, the then-mayor... (full context)
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Patriarchal Authority and Control Theme Icon
Time and Narrative Theme Icon
However, the next generation of town leaders came to find the tax arrangement with Miss Emily dissatisfactory; so one January they mailed her a notice of taxes due. By February, however,... (full context)
The Post Civil-War South Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Patriarchal Authority and Control Theme Icon
In response, the authorities of Jefferson dispatched members of the Board of Alderman to Miss Emily ’s house. Tobe showed the men into the dusty interior; a crayon portrait of Miss... (full context)
Section 2
Time and Narrative Theme Icon
Gossip, Social Conventions, and Judgment Theme Icon
So Miss Emily vanquished the town authorities in the matter of her taxes, just as she had vanquished... (full context)
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Patriarchal Authority and Control Theme Icon
So the next night, after midnight, four men went to Miss Emily ’s house in secret to investigate the smell and to attempt to neutralize it by... (full context)
The Post Civil-War South Theme Icon
Time and Narrative Theme Icon
Gossip, Social Conventions, and Judgment Theme Icon
The narrator recalls that this was when the townspeople had begun to feel sorry for Miss Emily . Remembering how her great-aunt Wyatt had gone mad, they came to believe that the... (full context)
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Patriarchal Authority and Control Theme Icon
Time and Narrative Theme Icon
Gossip, Social Conventions, and Judgment Theme Icon
The day after Miss Emily ’s father died, the ladies of the town visited Miss Emily and, as was the... (full context)
Section 3
The Post Civil-War South Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Patriarchal Authority and Control Theme Icon
Thereafter, Miss Emily fell ill for a long time. When next seen by the townspeople, she had a... (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 at first glad that Miss Emily had a romantic interest, even though they thought she would never think seriously about marrying... (full context)
The Post Civil-War South Theme Icon
Patriarchal Authority and Control Theme Icon
Time and Narrative Theme Icon
A year after some townspeople began saying “poor Emily”—and while two female cousins visited her— Miss Emily went to the druggist to buy poison, arsenic. The druggist told her that the law... (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
The townspeople immediately suspected that Miss Emily intended to kill herself with the arsenic, and agreed it was for the best, especially... (full context)
The Post Civil-War South Theme Icon
Patriarchal Authority and Control Theme Icon
Gossip, Social Conventions, and Judgment Theme Icon
Consequently, her two female cousins came to live with Miss Emily . Nothing changed at first, but soon the townspeople came to believe that she and... (full context)
The Post Civil-War South Theme Icon
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Patriarchal Authority and Control Theme Icon
Time and Narrative Theme Icon
When the townspeople next saw Miss Emily in person, she had grown fat and her hair had turned an “iron-gray.” From that... (full context)
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Patriarchal Authority and Control Theme Icon
Gossip, Social Conventions, and Judgment Theme Icon
...how the newer, post-Sartoris generation rose to power in town. The narrator also recalls how Miss Emily ’s painting pupils grew up and did not send their children to her, how Miss... (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
During Miss Emily ’s funeral, held in what had been her house, Tobe admitted the ladies of the... (full context)
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 room upstairs which no one had seen in forty years. Later, the narrator recalls—after Miss Emily was buried—they used force to open the door and gain entry. Dust pervaded the tomb-like... (full context)