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The unknown narrator of “A Rose for Emily” acts as the collective voice for the town. Critics have offered many theories about the identity of the narrator, all we know for sure is that the narrator uses the collective pronoun "we." This allows the narrator to attribute thoughts and ideas that may be his or her own to all the townspeople.
Read an in-depth analysis of the Narrator
The object of fascination in the story. A eccentric recluse, Emily is a mysterious figure who changes from a vibrant and hopeful young girl to a cloistered and secretive old woman. Devastated and alone after her father’s death, she is an object of pity for the townspeople. After a life of having potential suitors rejected by her father, she spends time after his death with a newcomer, Homer Barron, although the chances of his marrying her decrease as the years pass. Bloated and pallid in her later years, her hair turns steel gray. She ultimately poisons Homer and seals his corpse into an upstairs room.
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A foreman from the North. Homer is a large man with a dark complexion, a booming voice, and light-colored eyes. A gruff and demanding boss, he wins many admirers in Jefferson because of his gregarious nature and good sense of humor. He develops an interest in Emily and takes her for Sunday drives in a yellow-wheeled buggy. Despite his attributes, the townspeople view him as a poor, if not scandalous, choice for a mate. He disappears in Emily’s house and decomposes in an attic bedroom after she kills him.
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A mayor of Jefferson. Eighty years old, Judge Stevens attempts to delicately handle the complaints about the smell emanating from the Grierson property. To be respectful of Emily’s pride and former position in the community, he and the aldermen decide to sprinkle lime on the property in the middle of the night.
Emily’s father. Mr. Grierson is a controlling, looming presence even in death, and the community clearly sees his lasting influence over Emily. He deliberately thwarts Emily’s attempts to find a husband in order to keep her under his control. We get glimpses of him in the story: in the crayon portrait kept on the gilt-edged easel in the parlor, and silhouetted in the doorway, horsewhip in hand, having chased off another of Emily’s suitors.
Emily’s servant. Tobe, his voice supposedly rusty from lack of use, is the only lifeline that Emily has to the outside world. For years, he dutifully cares for her and tends to her needs. Eventually the townspeople stop grilling him for information about Emily. After Emily’s death, he walks out the back door and never returns.
A former mayor of Jefferson. Colonel Sartoris absolves Emily of any tax burden after the death of her father. His elaborate and benevolent gesture is not heeded by the succeeding generation of town leaders.