Summary and Analysis: "A Rose for Emily" Section IV


The townspeople, never suspecting that the poison is intended for Homer, conclude that Miss Emily will likely use it to kill herself. After Homer announces to the men that he is not the marrying kind, the townspeople think that his and Miss Emily's relationship is a disgrace, and they try to stop it. When they can't put an end to the relationship between the perceived lovers, they write to Miss Emily's relatives in Alabama, and two cousins come to stay with her. The town then learns that Miss Emily has bought a man's toilet set — a mirror, brush, and comb — inscribed with the initials "H.B.," and also men's clothing, including a nightshirt, which, ironically, will serve not as a nuptial nightshirt, but as a burial nightshirt for decades.

Homer disappears after Miss Emily's cousins move into the house, and everyone assumes that he has gone to prepare for Miss Emily's joining him. A week later, the cousins leave. Three days later Homer returns. The narrator notes, "And that was the last we saw of Homer Barron." The townspeople never suspect the horror of what happens, believing that such an aristocratic woman as Miss Emily could never do any wrong. She secludes herself for six months, and when she next appears in public, she is fat and her hair is "pepper-and-salt iron-gray," the same color of the strand of hair that will be found on the pillow next to Homer's decayed corpse.

Years pass, and a new and more modern generation of people control the town. Miss Emily refuses to pay her taxes; she will not even allow postal numbers to be put on her house, a symbolic gesture on her part to resist what the town sees as progress. The narrator notes Miss Emily's staying power: "Thus she passed from generation to generation — dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse." The term "perverse" undoubtedly carries a double meaning — her perverseness both in refusing to pay taxes and to permit postal numbers on her house, and in nightly sleeping with a corpse.