During Miss Emily’s funeral, held in what had been her house, Tobe admitted the ladies of the town inside, all whispering and glancing about. Tobe himself went to the back of the house and was not seen 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 porch, the very old men, some in Confederate uniform, talked of Miss Emily as though she had been their contemporary, some believing they had danced with and even courted her. For the old, the narrator says, time “is not a diminishing road but, instead, a huge meadow which no winter ever quite touches.”
We return to where the story begins, at Miss Emily’s funeral. Just as her conduct in life was overseen by a controlling father and a convention-bound, judgmental society, so here is Miss Emily’s corpse presided over by her father’s portrait and the scrutinizing eyes of the townspeople. The old Confederates on the porch misremember Miss Emily, suggesting that she was always primarily a representative of an ideal rather than a person to the town; their attitude toward time is nostalgic, counter-progressive, and untethered from reality.
Even during the funeral, the townspeople were aware of 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 room, which was “decked and furnished as for 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 had fused with the bed itself, grinning profoundly. On the pillow next to his head, the townspeople noticed the indentation of another head, and one person lifted from the pillow “a long strand of iron-gray hair”—Miss Emily’s.
The townspeople at last discover Miss Emily’s private, timeless world: a world disgusting with dust for never having changed, a world where the happy bridal chamber that should renew life is instead a shocking tomb, a world in which a woman trapped by time and the social conventions of her society finds “companionship” the only way she can, by killing her lover and making a “husband” of his corpse. Homer’s grin is a grotesque travesty of happiness. However, this room is not an aberrant horror, but reflective of Southern society’s broader refusal to move on from a falsely glorified past, to adapt, to change. Miss Emily’s tragedy stands in judgment on her society.