A Rose for Emily

The townspeople Character Analysis

The story is narrated by “we,” the townspeople in general, who also play a role in Miss Emily’s tragedy. The townspeople respect Miss Emily as a kind of living monument to their glorified but lost pre-Civil War Southern past, but are therefore also highly judgmental and gossipy about her, sometimes hypocritically. They think Miss Emily is too haughty and choosy when it comes to her romantic involvements, and yet when she begins to see Homer Barron they think she is not choosy enough. For all that the townspeople scrutinize and judge Miss Emily, for all that they stick their noses in her business and intervene in her romantic affairs, they ironically fail to recognize that she is deeply damaged, even criminally insane, and they also fail to discover that she murdered Homer till some forty years after the fact.

The townspeople Quotes in A Rose for Emily

The A Rose for Emily quotes below are all either spoken by The townspeople or refer to The townspeople. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer 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

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.

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 deser

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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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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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:

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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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The townspeople Character Timeline in A Rose for Emily

The timeline below shows where the character The townspeople 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
...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, the interior of which no... (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 of Jefferson, Colonel Sartoris—who made it illegal for black... (full context)
Section 2
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... (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
...dispose of the body.” She only capitulated upon the threat of law and force. The townspeople did not say that she was crazy then, on the grounds that, since she was... (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 girlish haircut and looked “tragic and serene.” Around this time, a construction... (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... (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... (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... (full context)
The Post Civil-War South Theme Icon
Patriarchal Authority and Control Theme Icon
Gossip, Social Conventions, and Judgment Theme Icon
...female cousins came to live with Miss 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... (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... (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... (full context)
Tradition vs. Progress Theme Icon
Patriarchal Authority and Control Theme Icon
Gossip, Social Conventions, and Judgment Theme Icon
...alone refused to have metal numbers fastened over her door and a mailbox installed. The townspeople watched as the reticent Tobe grew older. Then one day, having fallen ill, Miss Emily... (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
...again. Miss Emily’s two female cousins had arrived at once to oversee the funeral. The townspeople viewed Miss Emily’s corpse, over which stood the crayon portrait of her father. On 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
Even during the funeral, the townspeople were aware of a room upstairs which no one had seen in forty years. Later,... (full context)