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Emily Grierson's death caused quite a stir in her small, gossipy Mississippi town of Jefferson. She lived in a large, intricately decorated house that "had once been white." No one had seen Emily in 10 years, and this created a great amount of curiosity among the townspeople. Only her African American servant would be seen running errands, and he was the only one who had gone in the house all those years besides Emily herself.
In 1984, Colonel Sartoris, the mayor, remitted Emily's taxes. He told her this was a form of paying back money loaned to the town by her father, but this was a lie because otherwise she would not accept the money. The next generation of mayors and aldermen were not so keen on the idea of her not paying her taxes, and wrote to her repeatedly urging her to pay. When the aldermen eventually came to her dusty, outdated, musty home to explain that she must being paying her taxes, she persisted that she had no taxes in Jefferson before kicking them out.
Two years after Emily's father's death, her "sweetheart" left her. Soon after, a smell began to develop, provoking various complaints to the mayor. This was solved by four men who sprinkled lime around her house, which eliminated the odor. People were glad when they could finally pity her, as she had become "humanized."
The day after her father's death, the ladies of Jefferson visited Emily to offer their condolences. When she opened the door for them, she was dressed normally and showed no sign of grief. She denied her father was dead when ministers and doctors attempted to persuade her to let them dispose of the body. After three days, she finally broke down and the body was taken away. Emily has a fear of people leaving her and doesn't want to be alone.
Emily became friends with Homer Barren, a gay day laborer. Everyone thought they would get married, but pitied her when they discovered he liked men. She lost a lot of weight when she went to the druggist to buy arsenic. She would not say what it was for, and everyone thought she was going to commit suicide. She also bought various men's products, so everyone assumed she and Homer got married, and one day he entered the house and was never seen again.
Emily died in one of the downstairs rooms on a bed with her head on a yellow, moldy pillow. The people in the town waited for her to be buried before exploring her house, opening a room no one had seen in forty years. The various men's clothing and toiletry items Emily had purchased all those years ago were spread about the room, and on the bed lay a lifeless Homer Barron. His rotting body wore a nightshirt. The second dusty pillow had the indentation of a head, and on it was a long gray hair. Emily killed Homer to make sure he didn't leave her, and she laid beside him frequently.
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