A Rose for Emily from Tobe’s perspective

Part 1: Retelling

1

Miss Emily has been so ill up till now. Not sick in the body, but sick in the soul. Ever since Mr. Grierson died she’s been having difficulties. First, she almost seemed like she was in denial about his death, not allowing anyone in to remove his body, parading around for people, acting as though she wasn’t hurting. She did give in, eventually, but it took so long! I worry for her. She asked me to cut her hair. I didn’t want to, a woman her age ought to have at least shoulder length hair, but she made me cut it down to just about her ears. She looks younger, not how a lady her age should look.

Still, she’s at least socializing again, going out and about. There’s a new man in town, from up north. He’s a foreman for the company doing some civic construction in town, something or other Barron. I’m not sure how much I like the fella, but Miss Emily has taken a liking to him. He’s loud, and rude, and loves to be the center of attention, just like the yankee he is. He comes around most weekends and takes her for rides in the buggy, and then comes in here and order me around like I’m one of his workers! I wish one of us would leave so I’d never have to see him again.

 

2

Miss Emily and Homer have been consorting for over a year now. No one approves, and I think they know. Some of the Cousins Grierson have come to try to dissuade Emily from associating with Homer, which is for the best. He stays out late with the other men, drinking and doing Lord knows what. As they say, “He’s not the marrying kind.” She should be focused on a suitor more appropriate, someone from town, perhaps.

Not even the local minister approved, seeing as he came around to try to talk to her about it. At least, I believe he wanted to talk about that. All I really heard after l let him in were some raised voices on Emily’s part. He left shortly after, and she was not dissuaded at all since she’s still riding with Homer on the weekends and has even recently purchased a handful of presents for him, things that indicate a more intimate relationship than what they’ve shown so far. I believe she is planning something for him soon, a grand gesture. Whatever is to come, I hope it comes without her kin here. They are so difficult, bless their hearts!

 

3

Lord forgive us! We have committed the greatest sin! For weeks now, the Cousins Grierson have been haunting the halls in this house, whispering terrible things to Miss Emily, telling her that she’s throwing dirt upon the Family Name for being involved with a northerner, an “enemy”. I thought she was just letting their words roll off her back like water, but she had been listening the whole time! She’d just taken the words in her self, bottled them up and let the shame ferment. Her own blood had poisoned her, and then quickly fled!

When they had left, Miss Emily pulled me aside and explained all this. She kept going, telling me she loved Mr Barron, she wanted to spend forever with him, couldn’t handle him being with another woman, all of this. Then she told me her family and the people in town would never allow them to be together, which I already knew, but she even went so far as to admit her guilt about it all. She would not allow herself to be with him, no matter how much love she felt for him! So she continues, telling me of the arsenic she bought from the chemist and how she plans for me to use it in his food when he returns! God have mercy on me, I didn’t argue with her. I hate that man, and it would make her so happy! She’s all I worry about now.

Homer Barron came for supper and a chat the next evening. I had a stew on the cooker for the whole day, and fresh made rice. Emily and the man sat at the table, talking quietly and intensely, sipping on sherry. The arsenic came in a small brown bottle and in the form of round pellets. The instructions said to mix with water and pour onto the bait, so I just poured some into Homer’s stew bowl and served them both, careful not to mix up whose is whose. I then sat down in the kitchen, eating my own supper while listening to their conversation. Listening as Miss Emily cried and Homer became more and more tired in his responses. He didn’t understand what she was saying by the end. After a time, he asked to lay down until he felt better and his headache was gone. As I helped him carry himself up the stairs to the guest bedroom, he spilled blood from his mouth and it made the steps slick beneath our feet.

Well, I got him up into the bed and laid him down. Miss Emily asked me to leave the room and I heard her beginning to sob on my way out. Now I’m just sitting on my own bed coming to terms with what we’ve done. We killed that man! If any of the people here in town found out, Miss Emily would be locked away and I would be killed! Lord forgive me, no one can ever know.

 

Part 2: Examination

For my retelling I chose A Rose for Emily, but from the perspective of Tobe during the time leading up to Homer Barrons murder and directly after it. Instead of being a stream of consciousness type of first person narration, I chose to do it as more of a journal style. While A Rose for Emily is written in a first-person point of view from a character who was not involved in the events of the story and is therefore somewhat unreliable, and portrayed Emily as a near invincible character, my retelling is a first-person point of view from a first-hand perspective, and shows Emily as a more vulnerable, human character while in her own home.

One of the more prominent themes of A Rose for Emily is gossip. The whole story is told through a second hand recounting of the events, with townspeople constantly remarking about Emily and her family. They talk of her great-aunt and how she went crazy, and they talk about how the Grierson family, whether they are “like a tableau” or how little was left to Emily after her father passed.

“That was when people had begun to feel really sorry for her. People in our town, remembering how old lady Wyatt, her great-aunt, had gone completely crazy at last, believed that the Griersons held themselves a little too high for what they really were. None of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily and such. We had long thought of them as a tableau, Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door. So when she got to be thirty and was still single, we were not pleased exactly, but vindicated; even with insanity in the family she wouldn’t have turned down all of her chances if they had really materialized.”

In my retelling things are more intimate, told through the eyes of Tobe who witnessed everything that happened in the house. He sees things about Emily that others would not know, and his comments are based on that, like how fragile Emily really is.
“Miss Emily has been so ill up till now. Not sick in the body, but sick in the soul. Ever since Mr. Grierson died she’s been having difficulties. First, she almost seemed like she was in denial about his death, not allowing anyone in to remove his body, parading around for people, acting as though she wasn’t hurting. She did give in, eventually, but it took so long!”

The next difference between the original story and my limited retelling is how the people in each version perceive Emily. In the original version, peoples views of Emily are pretty much split down the middle, with some people thinking of her as southern nobility and others thinking she’s no better than them. Another thing people are split on is her relationship with Homer Barron. Some people were supportive, saying she deserved to be happy, while others were disapproving.

“At first we were glad that Miss Emily would have an interest, because the ladies all said, “Of course a Grierson would not think seriously of a Northerner, a day laborer.” But there were still others, older people, who said that even grief could not cause a real lady to forget noblesse oblige—without calling it noblesse oblige.”

In my retelling, Tobe has a much more mixed view of Emily. He’s disapproving of Homer for a few reasons, but he also wants Emily to be happy and he does anything to make sure she is. He also thinks she’s a great, incredible woman while still being aware of her shortcomings and weaknesses.

“I worry for her. She asked me to cut her hair. I didn’t want to, a woman her age ought to have at least shoulder length hair, but she made me cut it down to just about her ears. She looks younger, not how a lady her age should look.”

The biggest difference between the two versions is the role of Tobe in the stories. The original version barely makes any use of him, really only mentioning him in reference to the house they live in. He’s mentioned as letting people in to the house, being blamed for the stench surrounding the house after Homer is killed, and as doing the shopping for the house. He never speaks or shares his thoughts, and is only ever spoken to by Emily.

“And so she died. Fell ill in the house filled with dust and shadows, with only a doddering Negro man to wait on her. We did not even know she was sick; we had long since given up trying to get any information from the Negro. He talked to no one, probably not even to her, for his voice had grown harsh and rusty, as if from disuse.”

In my version Tobe is the narrator, so everything is from his perspective. I explore how he might possibly feel about Homer Barron, what he thinks about Emily, and his involvement in Emily’s crime. I go into detail about the murder, how Tobe was actually the one to poison him and how he assisted Emily in getting Homer into the bed, since she would not have been strong enough to do it on her own. This is a huge departure from the original version in which he is little more than a background character.

“I had a stew on the cooker for the whole day, and fresh made rice. Emily and the man sat at the table, talking quietly and intensely, sipping on sherry. The arsenic came in a small brown bottle and in the form of round pellets. The instructions said to mix with water and pour onto the bait, so I just poured some into Homer’s stew bowl and served them both, careful not to mix up whose is whose. I then sat down in the kitchen, eating my own supper while listening to their conversation. Listening as Miss Emily cried and Homer became more and more tired in his responses. He didn’t understand what she was saying by the end. After a time, he asked to lay down until he felt better and his headache was gone. As I helped him carry himself up the stairs to the guest bedroom, he spilled blood from his mouth and it made the steps slick beneath our feet.”

All in all, both versions are light on details surrounding what actually happened to Homer Barron and why he was killed, as well as his relationship with Emily, but my retelling provides a bit more context from Tobe’s point of view in the story. I felt that Tobe was an overlooked character who no one paid much attention to in the original, and I think my retelling also explains some of his behavior throughout the story, like him refusing to speak to townspeople and running away once Emily had died.

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