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Case Against Emily

What are the pros and cons against Emily as a murderer?

In 1998, Natalie argued, "Emily acted the way she did because her father had always controlled her life and after he died she was lonely and that is why she denied his death for three days because she was in denial. When Emily met Homer, she immediately fell in love because it was the first guy that had any interest in her and it was her first love. She was crazy and that is why she poisoned him because she wanted him to stay with her forever. After he finished his construction work, he would have left her and gone on to some other girl. That is how guys are. She poisoned him so, in her mind, she could still be with him."

In 1999, Jane asked if Emily was a victim of her environment.  I (Eric Hibbison, webmaster) replied:

Jane, You first! Whenever you ask for help on a forum, ALWAYS offer what you see so far on your own. 

For instance, what are the relevant parts of her "environment"
bullether father 
bulletthe "Grierson" status in the town and hence the expectations of the townspeople. 
bulletEventually, Homer's dead body becomes part of the "environment" 
bulletThe town changes until her house comes to be set amid automobile graveyards, as I recall, "an eyesore among eyesores." 
bulletOne question I usually ask my students is "Why couldn't Emily leave town?" Even if Homer didn't ask her, wouldn't leaving be better than the death-in-life that she endures? 
bulletAnother question I usually ask my students has to do with Emily's attempt to teach the young ladies of the town to paint china: Is she reaching out to the town and turning away from the corpse upstairs--or is she playing a trick on the town by inviting the little girls into her house while Homer decays upstairs?

These ideas may get you started on piecing an answer together, as well as re-reading the opening comments to see how the town regarded Miss Emily Grierson.

Amy (2003; KCKCC) speculates that maybe Homer just died: "I don't think that Emily necessarily meant to kill Homer. Maybe he just died. She could have drove herself crazy staying locked up all that time and just thought that the person was still alive. It's just like on the movie Psycho. He lives with his mother and everything but didn't really accept the fact that she was dead. Therefore he went on with life. There is no solid proof that Emily killed Homer."

Jennifer (2003; KCKCC) blames the town, at least in part, because of their gossip: "Southern towns are known for their gossiping. This town did a good job of showing this. That is why the women came to the funerals, so that they would have something to talk for a couple weeks. They also wanted to be able to see in her house."

Natalie (2003; KCKCC) blames not the town but the judge: "You can't blame the town for the death of Homer [because] it was Emily that killed him. And the way Emily acted came from her father. He was the one who hurt her by constantly kicking men to the curb and not letting her have any say in her life. If you blame anyone you should blame the father."

Adam (2001) was taking part in a mock trial of Emily as her defense attorney.  He claimed that the body was not that of Homer Barron.  [But there's still a body in her bedroom.]

Tokyo934 (2001) noted that Emily bought the rat poison, though the narrator never mentioned any literal rats around her house.  Thus, Emily is implicated as the murderer.

Kara (1998) pointed out that this story isn't really a "whodunit"; instead, the focus is on why Emily would want Homer dead.

Can a virgin be a necrophiliac? asks Jean (1999, JSRCC): "I hadn't thought much about how recently she (Emily) had lay down with the dead man, but the long "GRAY" hair says it all. It was fairly recent - at least in terms of her being gray haired, since Homer disappeared from the community when Emily was not yet gray. But by then ( recent times, after the smell had passed I presume) the flesh was no longer in tact, so-to-speak. So necrophilia was probably out of the question (but I'm no expert on the subject).

"I'm thinking she was just creating a fantasy that pretended she had a husband - in spite of the taboos involved socially. After all, Homer could be anything she wanted. She made him a gentleman when she provided him with the proper wedding attire and the elite silver toiletries. Emily was probably still a virgin and knew very little about sexual things, she was just demented."

Shirah (1999; JSRCC) lists reasons that mitigate Emily's responsibilities: 

In a way I do believe the people of Jefferson were partially responsible for the death of Homer Barron for the following reasons:

1. By Homer being a "Northerner", the people in the town of Jefferson already did not appreciate his "kind" around those neck of the woods in the first place. Better yet, how dare a "Northerner" come down south and court a notorious member of their community so openly, when all of the suitors from that area that previously called on Miss Emily were so easily disregarded without hesitation.

2. Mr. Barron was a laborer. He was basically a commoner. Even though the townspeople were friendly with Mr. Barron and acted as if they enjoyed his company, stating that he was always in the center of the group when a lot of laughter was heard, they did not think very highly of his social status. Also, his hidden dislike by the townspeople may have been because he let it be known that he liked men. Back in those days, that type of behavior was definitely frowned upon.

3. I mainly feel the narrator and the other townspeople were partially responsible for the death of Homer Barron because if they were so watchful of Miss Emily's home - enough to catch Mr. Barron entering Miss Emily's home at dusk one evening - why weren't they as equally watchful to make sure Mr. Barron came out of Miss Emily's home? As nosey as the narrator and townspeople were, they had to know Mr. Barron was in that house. He was last seen entering that house, but no one was concerned enough about his welfare because 1) He was a "Northerner"; 2) He was possibly gay; and 3) He was a commoner courting one of their monumental neighbors.

Even though Miss Emily had some very deep issues stemming from her father's dominance over her, which led to her irrational behavior of poisoning Homer and not letting him leave no matter what, the townspeople, or at least the sheriff, had an inherent duty to check on the whereabouts of Homer, since he was last seen entering Miss Emily's home.

So. There you have it. The people of Jefferson are just as guilty as Miss Emily. Remember...we are our brother's keepers! (Even when we don't care to be.)


Last changed: March 22, 2004