A Rose for Emily
by William Faulkner
Homer is the man Emily murderers. Yet, somehow, the focus of the tragedy is on Emily. Given the information we know about Homer, he isn't a very sympathetic character. This is partly because the town, as represented by the narrator, doesn't like him. Jeffersonians don't like him because he's a rough-talking, charismatic northerner and an overseer in town working on a sidewalk-paving project.
How involved with Emily he was, we don't know. He may have intended to marry her, but became dissuaded by the wacky antics of her cousins and the town. Why he went to her house that last time, and how exactly he ended up dead in the bed, we don't know. We don't even know if he really did, or was about to, break off his relationship with Emily before she killed him.
We also don't know if he was gay. We bring this up because this is one of the big questions students have after reading the story. The following line is the source of this confusion:
Then we said, "She will persuade him yet," because Homer himself had remarked – he liked men, and it was known that he drank with the younger men in the Elks' Club – that he was not a marrying man. (4.1)
What a strange sentence to unpack. Remember also, that it's gossip, in the most hard-core gossip section of the story. In this fragment, the town seems to be saying that even though Homer is gay, and even though he isn't the marrying kind, Emily will still manage to hook him. Unpacked, we can really see the spite. Their comments means that she definitely won't succeed, but that if she does, he's not the kind of man she thinks he is.
Nothing in the story tells us whether Homer was gay or not, but you can be pretty sure that's what the town people were insinuating.
The Guy Deserves Some Compassion
It's hard to find anything nice to say about Homer, but that doesn't mean we can't extend to him that compassion this story tries (in it's macabre way) to bring out in us. Whatever he did, whoever he was, he didn't deserve to be murdered. In over-sympathizing with Emily, and with the town's rationalization and cover-up of the murder, we run the risk of erring where they erred.
While Emily probably would have ended up in an awful insane asylum had the town investigated the disappearance of Homer Barron officially, Homer Barron might have had family or friends that never learned about what happened to him. Even if he didn't, isn't it important that the justice speak for those victims who can't speak for themselves?