Mental Illness in A Rose for Emily

In this story there are many signs that point out that Miss Emily is mentally ill. Many of the clues and hints are vague, but when they are put together the picture becomes obvious. It was never stated from what illness she is suffering from, but we can determine that she was suffering from some form of mental illness. The decisions that Miss Emily makes in the story are questionable. Many of the townspeople think she is odd, living a solitary life. She does not have a social life and just exists in her decrepit home. The people of the town used to respect her and her family. They looked up to the old southern family, but with her strange behavior many of the townspeople started to feel sorry for her. In Faulkner’s, “A Rose for Emily”, Emily Grierson shows signs of being mentally ill because she suffers from delusions, she does not take care of herself, and she has antisocial behavior.

Miss Emily suffers from delusions. The distinction between reality and fantasy has been blurred. After the death of her father, Emily refused to accept his death. It took three days for Emily to allow the townspeople in to remove the body. The reason for this may be that she really did not think he was dead, or she did not want to come to terms that she was going to be living alone. “Miss Emily met them at the door, dressed as usual with no trace of grief on her face. She told them that her father was not dead” (Faulkner 630). Her inability to accept her father’s passing, possibly, is a result of her segregation from the community and the way her father was very possessive of her. Emily refuses to admit that she owes taxes. Miss Emily had a prior agreement with a Colonel Sartoris, the mayor at the time that she did not have to pay taxes. After he was gone and was replaced, the alderman did away with this agreement. They sent her tax notices in the mail. She did not pay them. The alderman went out to Miss Emily’s home and was shocked by the way she spoke of Colonel Sartoris. She believed he was still alive, but he had been dead for ten years. After they adamantly told her she needed to pay her taxes, she told Tobe to have them leave. That was the last time they spoke to her about her taxes. After Miss Emily’s funeral, the narrator tells us of how they broke into a room upstairs. In this room they found a thick layer of dust. It looked as though no one had been in this room for many years. They saw a dressing table with a bag of a man’s toilet things. They also discovered a collar and tie, shoes and socks on the floor and a suit folded nicely on the chair. As they scanned the room they were shocked to see the remains of a man. He looked to have been dead for many years as he was a skeleton wearing a nightshirt. What they found next is a clue to Miss Emily’s sanity. They found a single strand of gray hair on the pillow next to the rotting corpse. This could only mean that Miss Emily slept in bed with a dead body. A sane person could not or would not have this kind of behavior.

In this story, Miss Emily does not take care of herself or her home. Her home was described as a “big squarish frame house that was painted white.”(Faulkner 628) It was decorated in a way that you could tell this family came from money. It was an elegant home that was cared for and was the nicest house on the street. As the story progresses the depictions of Emily and her home are not nice. They speak of the house as being filthy, the outside is grey, and it is not what it used to be. Neither is Miss Emily, when she as younger she was slim and wore appropriate clothing as she came from a wealthy family.

After her father dies, she gets sick and when she is seen again, “her hair is cut short, making her look like a girl.” (Faulkner 631) Later in the story she is seen when she is older. Her appearance was that of a small, fat, woman. Miss Emily, over time does not take care of herself in a way she used to. She does not care of what others think of her. She still has the mindset that the townspeople admire her and her family for who she is. But in reality, they feel sorry for her as they refer to her as “poor Emily.” Emily either is unable to maintain the appearance of her home and herself, or she just doesn’t care and lets it go. Either way, this also is a clue to her mental state.

Miss Emily was a recluse and had anti-social behavior. When Miss Emily was younger, it was told that she had many suitors that came to the house. Her possessive father would send them away, not allowing her to marry. She did not have any friends or a social life. She mainly stayed at home with her father. After his death, she was not prepared for living life without him. Her father left her the house, but not much more than that. She had a servant named Tobe, which was her only link to the outside world. In her thirties, Miss Emily became involved with a man named Homer Barron. He was a working man.

The townspeople were shocked by their involvement. Miss Emily disregarded their comments and continued to see him. When the thought appeared in her mind that he might leave her, she made sure that did not happen. Miss Emily visited the pharmacist and demanded poison. She did give a reason, just stated she wanted poison. The pharmacist obliged her request, many thought she might kill herself, but she must have used in on Homer. These behaviors are not from someone who is sane. One must be mentally disturbed to perform the act she did in this story.

Even though it was never mentioned what she suffered from, Miss Emily had a family history of mental illness. Her great aunt, old lady Wyatt, it was told, that she was completely crazy. Perhaps it ran in the family, or it was a product of how she was raised. No one will know for a fact what caused Miss Emily to be mentally ill. The evidence is there to convince anyone to the fact she couldn’t face reality when people died. She wanted to hold onto Homer after she killed him, for fear he was leaving her. Even if that meant leaving his corpse in her upstairs bedroom for many years. The behaviors she exhibited living as a recluse and not wanting neighbors to come over is again, another clue to her mental state. The story of Miss Emily is a sad one. A story of missed opportunities caused by her father for not allowing her to marry. Had he allowed her to marry and become a wife and mother, she would be surrounded with family and not have gone crazy and killed someone she loved.