In a sense, one of our greatest sources of insight into Miss Emily’s character, who she is and how she changes, is (shockingly enough) her hair. For example, after her father dies, Miss Emily falls ill for a long time; when she reappears in public, “her hair was cut short, making her look like a girl.” Earlier Miss Emily denies that her father is really dead, and her subsequent girlish haircut only seems like a subtle affirmation of this denial, a sign that she still thinks of herself as daddy’s little girl, as it were. Later, after Homer Barron disappears into the Grierson house, Miss Emily is next seen with “iron-gray” hair, “like the hair of an active man.” First, like an iron helmet, the “iron-gray” hair suggests that Miss Emily has something to protect—and indeed she is protecting a dreadful secret: Homer’s murder. Second, that her hair resembles the hair of an active man suggests that Miss Emily has rejected her community’s norms for female conduct, which she indeed has, albeit perversely so, in asserting her control over Homer by murdering him. And, finally, it is only by discovering a strand of Miss Emily’s hair on a pillow next to Homer’s corpse that the townspeople realize just how damaged, even criminally insane Miss Emily was. Given all of this, we might conclude that Miss Emily’s hair symbolizes both the woman’s turbulent mental life as well as her radical isolation from her community.
Miss Emily’s Hair Quotes in A Rose for Emily
The A Rose for Emily quotes below all refer to the symbol of Miss Emily’s Hair. 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: 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 5 Quotes
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.
Miss Emily’s Hair Symbol Timeline in A Rose for Emily
The timeline below shows where the symbol Miss Emily’s Hair appears in A Rose for Emily. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...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 company, which the town authorities... (full context)