Cloistered in the ancient Grierson mansion, served by an aging Negro, Miss Emily ignores tax notices sent after her father died; either she does not comprehend, or she has naively believed the old tale that the townspeople are indebted to her family. When her father dies, she refuses for three days to have him buried, telling the mourners he is not dead. The people see her grief as evidence of a despairing helplessness, feeling herself so alone, still unmarried, her father having driven away those young men who had earlier proposed to her. There is evidence hinting that madness ran in the family.
When she and Homer Barron, the foreman, are seen together, causing a scandal among the townsfolk, the Baptist minister is sent to talk to her. The minister does not say what transpired during their interview but he refuses to go back and talk to her again. Perhaps the minister was taken aback by Miss Emily’s haughty demeanor as that she displayed when she vanquished the town officials who had demanded from her payment of taxes. Or maybe the minister saw something frightful in Emily’s eyes that he refused to talk to her again.
The realization that the fun-loving, carefree foreman was not keen on marrying her, and the coming of her cousins from Alabama could have been the tipping point - the hair trigger - that caused Miss Emily’s mind to finally snap: she goes to the druggist to buy poison. But why would Miss Emily kill Homer when they could have married or went on with their dalliance, the town’s hostility notwithstanding? This is a guess: Miss Emily may have suspected Homer was not serious in their relationship – that she was being used for his amusement – and had decided to make him stay permanently.
But first she had to give him a chance, so she buys the silver toilet set with Homer’s initials in it, and men’s clothing including a nightshirt: perfect for a wedding and a honeymoon. When Homer appears after the cousins had departed, they have a confrontation: she demands to know if he would marry her or was simply taking her for a fool. Evasive and smooth, Homer would have parried off her questions with caresses, but she is unconvinced. So she laces her food with poison. Or, she may have planned the thing right from the start when the people started whispering “Poor Emily” behind her back. She wanted Homer so badly she would have to kill him and not allow anyone to take him away. To her, it was to be no crime at all. She prepares the room for him, adorned as for a bridal. There she slept with him, embracing his cold rotted body, pretending or imagining him, in her utter madness, to be alive, as she had refused to believe her old father dead.