Fear of Clasping Women in “A Rose for Emily”

by Mélanie Krawanski-Provencher


William Faulkner wrote “A Rose for Emily” a short story that surrounds one major character Emily Grierson. Emily dies as a very old woman and the townspeople realise how disturbed she was when they discover her dead lover in a closed room.  Emily was suffering from the fear of a clasping woman also known as the grasping woman. This belief can be considered as a psychological disorder (psychosis) that comes from Emily’s childhood.

Psychosis is a generic psychiatric term for a mental state often described as involving a loss of contact with reality causing deterioration of normal social functioning. People experiencing a psychotic episode may report hallucinations or delusional beliefs and may exhibit personality changes and disorganized thinking (Wikipedia). This definition can explain Emily’s behavior and also, her actions. Many psychological disorders arise as a direct consequence of a troubled childhood. Emily’s childhood, particularly her treatment by her overbearing father, gives a clue as to the impetus for her reclusive lifestyle and her eventually disturbing end (Ariyam).

Emily’s father contributes to Emily’s state of mind by driving away the young men who wanted to court her. “So when she got to be thirty and was still single, we were not pleased” (485). It was unusual to be single at this age in the South; Emily was suffering from this situation and her father didn’t help her to feel like other young girl of her age.

Emily was lacking love and her fear of being alone became stronger at her father’s death. “She told them that her father was not dead. She did that for three days, with the ministers calling on her, and the doctors, trying to persuade her to let them dispose of the body. Just as they were about to resort to law and force, she broke down, and they buried her father quickly” (485). She denies her father’s death and act like nothing has happened. The only man, who theoretically loved her, dies; this means, she lost everything she had in the world and she is left with only a decaying house. Her behaviour towards her father’s death is the first sign of the clasping woman; she was taking control of the body, the house, and everything around. What brought her to finally bury her father is unknown.

Emily started to live as a hermit in her house until she meets Homer Barron a man who is known to be homosexual. The townspeople were glad to think that they got married because they saw Homer Barron in her house and they saw Emily buy men’s belongings. When he disappears, nobody in the town is surprised; they assume that he just when up north. In fact, she poisoned the man to keep him at her side. She has now control of him and her destiny. Nobody in town knows that he is dead so, nobody can claim the body and or snatch it away from her. She will finally have what she always wanted to have, been able to give love because he can’t escape anymore.

Her necrophilia is explained by her fear of being rejected and perhaps due in part to a significant loss. Her father refused to let her to be married, he dies and she is felt alone and too old to be able to find a decent man to be married to. Homer Barron is the innocent victim of Emily; he just happened to be there. But, we can’t blame her for being lonely. She found a way to fight against loneliness and was sure to never be rejected. The fear of the clasping woman can be explained by the lack of love and the need to recognition, appreciation and security. Those are important essentials elements of life which, Emily was denied. She fought against insanity and she unfortunately and miserably lost her battle.



Pickering, James H. Fiction 100: an Anthology of Short Fiction. 10th ed. New Jersey: Person, 2004.

Ariyam, D.K. Rants! And ballings!: Essays. Nov. 25 2005. Nov. 18 2007. <http://www.ariyam. com/essays/>.

Wikipedia.com. Psychosis. Nov. 16 2007. Nov. 17 2001. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Psychosis>.