A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner – Who was Miss Emily?



            The story written by William Faulkner is a mix of suspense and mystery. The narrator speaks on behalf of the town’s collective voice and pictures Miss Emily as a character full of interesting yet strange psychological traits. Besides being a Southern woman who comes from an aristocratic family, who was Miss Emily?  Although the townspeople would prefer to see Miss Emily as an idol, the reader could realize that the main character had psychological problems. First, she held her dead father at home for four days in a Freudian denial attitude. Then, when she finally started having a relationship, her insecurity and low self-esteem drove her to buy arsenic and soon after that, her boyfriend mysteriously disappeared.  Those elements together would’ve given us an idea of what was happening; however, other elements such as the tax issues and the judgmental tone towards African – American people and women distracted us. Those facts, added to the chronological aspect of the story were mixed, which caused the diversion of the reader’s focus.

The setting reflects Miss Emily’s inner situation. A dark and dusty house, humid and moldy furniture and appliances, antiques, faded colors, tarnished silver and gold objects; all of that, transmit the feeling of an individual who was trying to resist change. Miss Emily wanted to ignore the world and its modifications. Emotionally, she could not face changes. She was buried in her house, in the memories of her beloved father, in her own confused feelings and in her dusty furniture. The elements that composed the physical setting conveyed a gloomy and mysterious mood to the reader.  The narrator uses “we”, which denotes a first person plural point of view. The narrator seems to know Miss Emily very well since she/he mentions details of her house and even evaluate Miss Emily as being a “[…] tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town[…]”. The narrator makes clear that Miss Emily was an alive entity who incited curiosity and even fear in the population of Jefferson.

One could attempt to analyze Miss Emily personality going through several different paths; from a person who suffers from conditions such as Schizophrenia to the extreme of classifying her as a sociopath or necrophiliac. Nonetheless, I’ll attempt to sketch her personality profile based on Freudian concepts such as Defense Mechanisms, Oedipus Complex and a concept coined by Kenneth Adams, the Covert or Emotional Incest. Throughout the story, besides a great-aunt and two distant female cousins, Miss Emily did not have any feminine figure cohabiting with her. That makes one wonder how the relationship between Miss Emily and her father was structured without the role of a “mother” between them throughout the years. I believe that her father would establish and reinforce this emotional incestuous relationship by attributing Miss Emily the role of “wife”, which might not have been physical but psychological. That is demonstrated in the story by “We remembered all the young men her father had driven away […]”.  When her father died, Miss Emily clung to the body in denial of his death for four days. She was extremely attached to the figure of the father in different aspects and she would fiercely grieve her idealized “husband”. For instance, “[…] none of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily and such,” denotes the idealization that Miss Emily would have about her father. In order to interest her, a man would have to resemble her father; not physical, but psychological resemblance. As one could admit, it would be extremely difficult for Miss Emily to fulfill her idealization. As a consequence, she had many years of mourning and developed into an egotist, conceited, attached and perverse individual. As such, the house became her refuge, a place stopped in time, where she could revive her memories and feel psychologically comfortable. After years of grieving, she finally met a person with the possibility of staying with her. Nonetheless, one of Miss Emily’s traits was insecurity, which could also be extended to fear of loss. In an attempt to resolve the situation, she carefully prepared her bridal room and planned Homer Barron’s death. At that point, her contact with reality was disrupted and she started living under the illusion of having Homer Barron as her husband. As opposed to what happened to her father, no one knew Homer Barron was dead. This time, the residents of Jefferson would not be able to take Homer Barron away from her since everyone thought he’d abandoned Miss Emily. Meanwhile, all the gossipy and narrow minded people from the town of Jefferson could not realize that Miss Emily was not just a mere entertaining object but, she was mentally disturbed.

To conclude, I strongly believe that Miss Emily was a lady who had a dysfunctional relationship with her father since her childhood. She and her father had this emotional incestuous relationship in which the father attributed her with duties of a spouse. Later in her life, she started seeing her father as if he was her “husband”. They might have never had a physical incest, but the emotional burden was placed and disrupted Miss Emily’s life until the end. That transformed her in an egotist, attached, insecure and perverse woman.


Works Cited

Kennedy, X.J, and Dana Gioia. “Point of View: A Rose for Emily.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama and Writing. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson, 2013.  Print.

McLeod, Saul. “Sigmund Freud.” Simply Psychology, 19 Jan. 2013. Web. 14 June 2014. <http://www.simplypsychology.org/Sigmund-Freud.html&gt;.

Adams, Kenneth, and Patrick Carnes. “What is the silent seduction?” Silently Seduced: When Parents Make Their Children Partners. Deerfield Beach: Health Communications, Inc., 2011. Print.