Diagnosis of Emily Grierson

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As we read William Faulkner’s story “A Rose for Emily” we are introduced to the main character or the protagonist Miss Emily Grierson and the fact she had just died. As the story is read it gives clues as to Miss Emily’s mental problems. The reader gains light of her background and sees her mental instability after her father dies. They learn Miss Emily has withdrawn into her own world of delusion and fantasy. Mental problems start to show in Miss Emily when after her father dies.

She shows signs of inappropriate coping skills. First by not showing grief of her father’s passing and then when the towns people come to console her, “She told them her father was not dead. She did that for three days…Just as they were about to resort to law and force, she broke down, and they buried her father quickly” (Fualkner, 2012, p. 86). The reader can see Emily’s coping skills are not situational appropriate.

Miss Emily has retreated into her own world. She had withdrawn from society altogether and “from that time on her front door remained closed” (Faulkner, 2012, p. 88). It is mentioned the next time the townspeople saw Miss Emily, “she had grown fat and her hair was turning gray” (Faulkner, 2012, p. 88), this maybe a symptom of psychosis with failure to attend to personal appearance such as grooming and hygiene.

Another episode where Miss Emily is showing irrational, inappropriate anti-social behavior is when the townspeople got mailboxes, “Miss Emily alone refused to let them fasten the metal numbers above her door and attach a mailbox to it. She would not listen to them” (Faulkner, 2012, p. 89). To diagnosis Miss Emily with the psychological disorder of schizophrenia the reader would have to look into the signs and symptoms of the disease and compare them to the symptoms that Miss Emily manifested.

Her symptoms of inattention to grooming, poor eye contact, decreased recreational activities or interests, impaired intimacy, few relationships with friends or peers, social inattentiveness and her delusions from her past history of being controlled and withdrawn all are symptoms of schizophrenia, (Varcarolis & Halter, 2010, p. 314).


  • Faulkner, W. (2012). A Rose for Emily. In M. Meyer (Ed. ). The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature (9th ed. ). Boston, MA; Bedford/St. Martin’s
  • Varcarolis, E. M. , & Halter, M. J. (2010). Foundation of psychiatric mental health nursing (6th ed. ). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.

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