Study Guide

A Rose for Emily Section 4

By William Faulkner

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Section 4

  • The town immediately hears about Emily's arsenic purchase, and immediately assumes she will kill herself.
  • They also think this is the best solution to her problem. (Ooh, that's harsh.)
  • When Emily and Homer first became an item, the town thought they would get married.
  • Later, the town begins to believe that Homer's gay—he likes to have drinks with "younger men" (4.1) and admits he isn't the marrying kind.
  • The town feels sorry for Emily whenever they see her riding with Homer.
  • Some of the women become worried that Emily's relationship with Homer is a bad example for the town youths.
  • Then, the meddling begins.
  • First the town gets the minister to talk to Emily about the Homer Barron problem.
  • She must have really told off that minister, because he refuses tell anybody what Emily said to him, and she doesn't stop seeing Homer.
  • So, they bring out the big guns: Emily's two female cousins from Alabama, relatives of old lady Wyatt.
  • For a little while, the town doesn't think the cousin plan was successful.
  • When Emily buys a shaving kit with Homer's initials on it, and "a complete outfit of men's clothing, including a nightshirt" (4.3), they think that Emily and Homer either are married or soon will be.
  • The town is happy about this, because they like the cousins way less than they like Miss Emily and want to see the cousins fail at what they had set out to do.
  • Homer's project finishes, and he isn't in town.
  • They think he'll be back once Miss Emily's cousins leave, and they're right.
  • A few days after the cousins took off, Homer Barron comes back on the scene.
  • He is seen entering Miss Emily's house, but never seen after that.
  • Other than the occasional glimpse in the window, the town doesn't see Emily for about six months.
  • When she emerges after the six months, she's put on lots of weight, and her hair has turned gray.
  • It gets grayer and grayer until it is "an even pepper-and-salt iron gray" (4.6).
  • At this point, she goes back into her home and doesn't come out of her house until she dies, except for when she gives china-painting lessons.
  • She gives the lessons for about six or seven years, beginning when she's about forty.
  • But when the younger generation takes over the town, they stop sending their kids to Miss Emily and her door stays closed.
  • The town then watches Tobe's hair go gray, as he goes back and forth from the house with the shopping.
  • The town sends Miss Emily a bill for her taxes every December, and it's always returned.
  • She is only seen, from time to time, in a downstairs window.
  • Somehow, the town knows that Miss Emily had "shut up the top floor of her house" (4.9).
  • The narrator says she looked "like the carven torso of an idol in a niche" (4.9).
  • (An idol is a worshiped, and usually feared, object. Such an object might be placed "in a niche," a spot. And since Emily is in the window, only her torso is visible.)
  • Then the narrator tells us that this image of Emily in the window is seen by generations of townspeople. To all these generations she is "dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse" (4.9).
  • Emily dies like that in a dusty, old, dark house, with just the aged Tobe for company and care.
  • Nobody even knew Emily was sick before she died.
  • The town had stopped asking Tobe about her long ago, knowing he wouldn't tell them anything.
  • Tobe's voice sounded like it was rarely used. The town doubts he even talked to Emily.
  • Miss Emily died in a bedroom downstairs in an old bed that hasn't seen sun in a very long time.

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