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Motives

Why did Emily kill Homer?

Jean Preddy (J. Sargeant Reynolds CC) suggested: The fact that Homer is a Yankee is crucial. The whole story is hinged upon the joining of the North with the South and the unnatural union it represented in the eyes of the Southern aristocracy. The fact that he was a simple day laborer fed into the low social status theme that prevails in contrast with the noble status of the Grierson name. It was the obligation of the noble (noblesse oblige) to maintain a high station according to the codes of the old South -- and at all cost. The fact that Homer may have been gay was thrown in to make it clear that he would never marry Emily, and also clear that he was a total social misfit.

Joanne S (JSRCC) agrees and amplifies, stressing the role of gossip vs. her Grierson reputation: When the townspeople gossiped about their relationship, I think this played a big part in Emily's going off the edge. 

Her father always letting her down with disapproval of all the men that she could have had plays a major role in her wanting and needing a man -- and keeping him. 

When she knew in her heart that Homer was never going to marry her, and when he paid more attention to being with the guys and gambling, I believe this is what sent her over the edge. She knew at this point to save face with the public that she had to make a drastic decision. Being in the spotlight, she knew that people would
talk if Homer walked out on her. I think she persuaded him to come back and then killed him out of anger with the rat poison. 

As far as her going insane and keeping Homer's body in her house for years, one can only assume that she couldn't let go [nor could she dispose of the body and risk being seen by one of the many people who seem to watch her house].

R. Dawson (JSR) sees two possible motives

1. Emily did not want him to return to his home. This had apparently been the only romantic involvement she has ever had, and she does not want it to end. By now, thanks to her father, there were no suitable men left in the town that interested her or were interested in her. By killing him, and putting him in the attic, she could keep him all to herself forever. 

2. She wanted to spare herself the embarrassment of being seen with or married to a "Yankee"--a fate that would have been near death for a Southern aristocrat in that time. By killing him and keeping him to herself, she could spend the rest of her life with him, and not face the wrath of the community.

Cynthia disagrees with the notion of "reputation" or the town looking down on Homer as a common laborer: "I seriously doubt Emily cared about her 'obligations'' to society. It makes no sense that she would care about what they thought of Homer. The way I see it, because her father never let Emily be with anyone, all she had was him. When he died, if you noticed, she wanted to keep his body. She couldn't let go because he was all she had left. She was afraid that her only lover (who was not gay) would leave her as her father did and then, of course, she would be alone again. That is why Emily killed him. It makes sense in a demented, insane kind of way."

C. McGovern argues that: "She had lost all status when her father had raised her to believe that she had so much. The Griersons held themselves 'too high' for everyone else, according to the narrator (i.e. 'we' the town). She was so high, no one was good enough for her. After she was well into her thirties, her last chance was Homer Barron. It is sad that her pride drove her to such lunacy, but not unthinkable."

Brandon (2003) sees Emily's father as a contributing cause: "I think that in a way Emily's father killed her unknowingly. He separated her from the world which drove her to be lonely which in turn eventually killed her and also drove her to kill Homer because she didn't have someone to love her and she did not want to be alone like her father seemed to want for her."

Lisa (1999, JSRCC) sees Emily as clinging: "I don't feel that Emily really hated men. I think she feared being alone. All that Emily wanted was to be loved. She lost her father when she was young and felt that she was about to lose Homer. I think Homer was going to leave her, so she killed him and kept his body. Even it though was morbid to sleep with the body, I think she was trying to hold on to someone she feared would eventually leave her."

Anthony (1999) suggests that Emily might have been a necrophiliac only for a while: "The idea that she was sleeping with a dead man is unsettling enough. Your suggestion that she is "sleeping" with a dead man is downright disgusting. However, consider this thought. I'm not a psychologist nor do I have any experience in the field of necrophilia, but I have always thought that necrophilia had something to do with power. Necrophiliacs are aroused by the act of killing, because it is the ultimate power that a person can have over another human being. It might be possible that Emily was aroused initially by the act of poisoning him. However, your theory suggests that she had sex with him well after the death itself. What I'm saying is that after the initial moments of the murder, I think she was satisfied merely to sleep with him (without quotation marks.) I could be wrong, but that's just what I think."

Cher (1999) suggests several motives

bulletEmily had hatred for men already because of the way her father repressed her from a normal life.
bulletI feel that Emily killed Homer after finding out for herself that he was a homosexual. It said that he liked to hang out with the younger men and drink and that he himself admitted to liking men. 
bulletShe couldn't handle being rejected by a common worker. 
bulletSurely [she] couldn't let him live and risk him disgracing her in public at a later date.

Patrickr18 (1999) claims that the Grierson arrogance has something to do with her crime: "I have concluded that Mrs. Emily's situation was due to the fact that she felt that she was too good for society because of her status in town. I do feel, however, that her father had something to do with WHY she felt superior. In the same respect, he probably felt that she was too good to marry anyone. You listen to your father especially back in those days. However, I feel she changed toward the end when she met Homer Barron. When she found out that he COULD NOT give her what she had been longing for and what her father never gave her . . . , she killed him."

R. Hojjati (1999) sees jealousy as a possible motive, among others: "Maybe Emily was jealous of Homer because he was seen with young men, and she was not allowed to do the same, her father did not allow it. Homer never could have married another man because it was not excepted and in a twisted way, Emily could have thought she was doing him a favor by having his dead corpse in a room that was decorated in a bridal fashion and herself a favor because she was never married and wouldn't be so the actions she took and choices she made concerning this incident was the perfect substitute for her empty life. Homer could have possibly said he wanted to die because he left when Emily's cousins came and did not come back until they departed."

Lilia (1999; Northern Va CC) sees the Alabama Griersons as a major obstacle to Emily and Homer: "Emily had been a very lonely and sad individual. I also believe that once Emily's father died she finally had the opportunity to find someone to love her. It was unfortunate that having been controlled for so long by her father that she continued to let her relatives dictate to her. I believe that her relatives chased off her new bow and scared him into leaving Emily or maybe they gave Emily an ultimatum. If Emily could have stood up to her relatives and fought for what she wanted then maybe her new love would have stayed. Emily was apparently not strong enough to do this, so instead of letting her new love go she decided she would keep him with her forever. "

Nikki (2001) excludes lust as a motive: "Here's my interpretation: When homer came back from wherever he was I think that Emily had already decided to kill him because she thought he was going to leave her. I think she put the arsenic in some food that she gave him to eat, and after he ate he told her that he intended to marry her; then I think she led him to the bridal suite (or tomb) and had him put on the suit of clothes that she had bought. Then I think that he changed into his night shirt and they had sex. Afterwards he died holding her; it says something like 'in the pose of an embrace.' I think she was so consumed with grief--like she was when her father died-- that she didn't tell anyone and maybe thought he was still alive like she did when her father died. So I think she thought of him as her husband even when he was a skeleton and continued to at least sleep with him at night.  As for the necrophilia, I'm not sure, but she might have had sex with the body afterwards too, but I don't think it was her motivation for killing him."

Jen (1998) believes Emily kills Homer for certainty: "I don't think she wanted Homer to suffer, but I don't think she really thought much for others. All she knew was that she didn't want to be alone anymore. The only way she could assure that fact was to kill herself, or kill him. She decides to kill Homer to secure the fact that she will always have him by her side, and she will never be alone. In this uncertain world we live in, Miss Emily provides herself with that certainty."