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In "A Rose for Emily," Miss Emily is characterized by the narrator, who represents the voice of the town of Jefferson.
Before her death, when the Board of Aldermen call upon her to ask for her taxes, she is "a small, fat woman in black" who looks "bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water, and of that pallid hue. Her eyes, lost in the fatty ridges of her face, looked like two small pieces of coal pressed into a lump of dough as they moved from one face to another while the visitors stated their errand."
But the narrator remembers her at the time right after her fathers death, when she goes to the druggist to buy arsenic, as "over thirty then, still a slight woman, though thinner than usual, with cold, haughty black eyes in a face the flesh of which was strained across the temples and about the eyesockets as you imagine a lighthousekeeper's face ought to look."
After Homer Barron's disappearance, the narrator describes how when the townspeople next saw her, six months later, "she had grown fat and her hair was turning gray. During the next few years it grew grayer and grayer until it attained an even pepper-and-salt iron-gray, when it ceased turning.
She is a member of what was previously a well-respected family in the town. The family fell apart once her father died because he had controlled her before that time. She is no longer looked upon as anything but someone who has lost everything including her virginity to a man, Homer Barron, who is nothing but a cad.
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