Lunatic: Psychological term for lunatic is defined as a person who has been declared insane. The person is afflicted or has shown characteristics of mental derangement or eccentric behaviors. This person shows or is marked by a lack of good sense or judgment. Mental illness of such a severe nature that a person cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, cannot conduct her/his affairs due to psychosis, or is subject to uncontrollable impulsive behavior.
In the short story “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner, the character Miss Emily displayed misanthropic, yet feeble behaviors that made her appear to be following in her aunts footsteps; who showed signs of mental derangement. Having been shunned from the outside world, Miss Emily showed no signs of social interaction with the town’s people. Miss Emily was kept in the home closely monitored by her father, and was not allowed a social life. Her aunts mental status was rapidly diminishing, losing sight of where she was, and what was going on around her.
Miss Emily was faced with the death of her father, but did not believe it. She held on to the body for three days inside the home. Her fear of losing the only person she had all her life had come to a tragic end. She was in disbelief and refused to let go of her father. In the end she had no choice but to let go of the body, because it was causing havoc with the town’s people. They were worried about the body decaying and causing a stench that would travel out into the air. Miss Emily’s state of mind was questioned when her father was gone.
She was left alone with no one but Colonel Sartoris, and Tobe her servant who took care of her and her home. She had never had a relationship outside of her father, and would not know how to take care of herself. Emily was showing signs of mental distress, she was not functioning right. She looked like she had not bathed in days and continued to keep herself shunned from the outside world. She didn’t partake in anything that had to do with socializing with the town’s people. A couple of years after her father’s passing she was still confined to her home.
Until, one morning she was surprised by the knock on the door; a strange man by the name of Homer Barron, he was the foreman of the construction company the town had contracted to pave the sidewalks. Surprisingly she accepted his advances and sooner than you know it they were going out on the town frequently. The people in the town took notice and questioned why she would have interest in a man that was of lower class and from the North. “Of course a Grierson would not think seriously of a Northerner, a day laborer” (32).
This man who she had been seeing for the past year was now very well known in town by many and knew that he was not the marrying type. “She will marry him” (33). These were one of the comments made by the town‘s people. Then the town’s people also commented on how she would persuade him, because Homer himself had made a remark about how he liked men. In the midst of being out on the town one day on her own, she went to purchase poison. She said she was in need of it and would like one that would give her the best result. The druggist named several. They’ll kill anything up to an elephant. But what you want is Arsenic” The druggist looked down at her. She looked back at him, erect, her face like a strained flag (33). The druggist questioned her motives for the purchase.
She just said firmly “I want arsenic”(33). Once she reached her home she opened the package and written on it under the skull and bones: “For Rats. ” After the poison was sold to her, the next day the druggist was commenting to others, “ she will kill herself”? (33). and that would be the best thing(33). Miss Emily seemed to be falling into he same pattern she had with her father. She was submissive to Homer, he ran the show like her father once did. The difference between her dad and Homer was that she could be intimate with Homer. Somewhere in her mind she was planning to be with this man for the rest of her life; although he may not have wanted to ask her to marry him. She had made purchases of toiletry with his initials on it. She purchased a complete outfit of men’s clothing, including a night shirt. Also in her possession she had a wedding dress that was on a mannequin in the room that looked like a honeymoon sweet.
Miss Emily had finally made the decision to give herself to Homer, but she was compromising herself and he was going to pay the price. She had everything all planned out for the night that she would give herself to him. They had an intimate dinner, and afterwards she was taken up to the bedroom. She had the glass of wine ready for Homer. He had no idea that there was poison in the wine he was drinking and that, that would be the last time he would be with anyone else. Miss Emily carefully orchestrated the way Homer would be with her for the rest of her life, even if it meant she was committing the act of necrophilia.
At that point Miss Emily’s state of mind was completely gone. She had no idea about the crime she had committed. She was not about to let him go, especially after making the biggest mistake of her life by compromising herself. Again, Miss Emily was faced with the fact that she would be alone, in mind but not in body and soul. She would have Homer all to herself for the rest of her life. The smell of the decaying body was out there, but no one knew what had happened. People thought that Homer had left town because he was done with his contract.
She let it go on like nothing ever took place, the smell was so strong that Tobe had to work around the house covering his nose all the time. The towns people complained of the smell they didn’t know what it was, they figured it was a dead rat. The Colonel had passed by this time also, and there was only Tobe who took care of her. Tobe was taking care of everything as far as all the upkeeps of the home and making sure they had food on the table every night. “Just as if a man, any man, could keep a kitchen properly”(31).
The town’s people were not surprised when the smell developed. Emily was not in the right state of mind and did not pay much attention to what was going on around her. All she paid mind to was Homer, she was always locked up in the room with the corpse. Once again she was confined to her home and did not let anyone in. She refused to pay taxes owed on her property. When questioned about it she would deny the fact that she would receive correspondence in relation to that matter. She would say they were taken care of and did not owe anyone anything.
Miss Emily felt like she was supposed to be taken care of because she was the last of Griersons. Days, months, years passed and she had evidently shut up the top floor of the house. Like the carven torso of an idol in a niche, looking or not looking out at the town’s people, they could never tell which. She passed from generation to generation, dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse. And so she died. Fell ill in the house filled with dust and shadows, with only a doddering Negro man to wait on her. She died in one of the downstairs rooms, in a heavy alnut bed with a curtain, her gray head propped on a pillow yellow and moldy with age and lack of sunlight (34). After Miss Emily’s funeral, her kin went over to the home to claim what little was left. What they found upstairs in the room that was locked was the remains of Homer Barron with a fleshless grin. She had not removed anything from that room, she left everything in tact. The ladies even found a long strand of iron-gray hair. That proved that she was laying beside the corpse even after he was just bones.
Although, Emily was on the path of lunacy way before she lost her father she was thrown over the edge when she did finally lose him. Being the conservative person that she was Miss Emily felt like she deserved the respect of the town’s people when she did decide to partake in the going outs with Homer Barron. Miss Emily was lucid enough to make the decision to keep Homer with her for the rest of her life. She would carefully plan how she would kill him and keep his remains intact so that she would be with him every night.
In my opinion, because Miss Emily was socially deprived she didn’t know how to let go of that one person she had committed herself to. Miss Emily only knew how to stay attached to that one person who would make her feel secure and comfortable. Her obsession with Homer was due to the fact that the town’s people were already talking about her frequent outings with him. She figured since they were routinely going out for about a year that they would eventually get married. At the time of compromising herself with him she felt there was no other way out.
Rather than letting his body leave town she chose to let his soul leave the earth. But, not her side, because she kept his corpse by her side every night for many years. I think Miss Emily died a happy woman in her own sick and twisted way. Miss Emily had the upper hand. Homer Barron had no control over what she did and when she did it with him. The tables were turned; she was no longer submissive to him, but his corpse was submissive to her. She took matters into her own hands and made it work for her; as a result, no one but Tobe knew what took place in that home.