Emily Grierson - The main character of the story. Emily's father kept her from seeing suitors and controlled her social life, essentially keeping her in isolation until his death, when she is 30 years old. Her struggle with loss and attachment is the impetus for the plot, driving her to kill Homer Barron, the man that is assumed to have married her. Because no man has ever been able to stay with her before, Emily poisons and kills Homer. She sees murder as the only way to keep Homer with her permanently, and she treats him as if he is her husband even after she kills him. This is shown by her keeping his clothes in the room, keeping his engraved wedding items on the dresser, and even sleeping with him, all acts that normal married couples do. Her act of murdering Homer also displays her obstinate nature. Emily deals in absolutes throughout the story. She refuses to pay her taxes because she didn’t have to pay them when her father was alive. She has her servant Tobe follow the same patterns, such as his grocery errands. She kills Homer to ensure that he will never leave her. By the end of the story, Emily’s story is seen as a tragedy rather than an atrocity because of what her character has gone through.
Homer Barron - Emily's romantic interest. He is later found dead and decomposed in Emily's bedroom after her funeral. He initially enters the story as a foreman for a road construction project occurring in the town. He is soon seen to be with Emily in her Sunday carriage rides, and it is soon expected for them to be married. Homer differs from the rest of the town because he is a Northerner. The story takes place in the South shortly after the Civil War, and while Homer is not necessarily unwelcome to the town, he does stand out. This, along with the fact that he is seemingly courting Emily, sets him apart from all of the other characters in the story. It is because he is an outlier that Emily becomes attracted to him. It is generally unknown if Homer reciprocates the romantic feelings Emily has for him. Recently the topic of whether or not Homer is homosexual has been discussed and whether or not it factors into the story.
The Narrator - An unnamed member(s) of the town who watched the events of Emily's life unfold in its entirety. The story is presented to the reader in a non-chronological order; this suggests that the story is being patched together by multiple people. Some parts of the story are repeated, such as Homer’s disappearance, the idea that Emily and Homer will get married, and Emily’s refusal to pay taxes, also indicating that the narrator is a voice for the town. Though the townspeople disapprove of most of Emily’s actions, such as refusing to pay her taxes and purchasing poison, nobody intervenes.
Colonel Sartoris - The former mayor who remitted Emily's taxes. While he is in the story very little, his decision to remit Emily’s taxes leads to her refusal to pay them ever again, contributing to her stubborn personality. The reason for Sartoris remitting her taxes is never given, only that he told Emily it was because her father loaned the money to the town.
Mr. Grierson - Emily's father, the patriarchal head of the Grierson family. His control over Emily's personal life prohibited her from romantic involvement. The reason for his refusal to let Emily court men is not explained in the story. It could be that he is overprotective because he loves Emily too much. It could be because he believes that there is not a man good enough to marry his daughter. It could be that he is set in his ways and does not want Emily to become distracted from her societal duties. Whatever the reason, Mr. Grierson shapes the person that Emily becomes. His decision to have her taxes remitted allows her to think that she does not have to pay taxes ever again. His decision to lie to her about the reason for her taxes being remitted makes her ignorant and unwilling to accept any explanations or reasons for paying. His decision to ban all men from her life drive her to kill the first man she is attracted to and can be with, Homer Barron, in order to keep him with her permanently.
The cousins - Emily's extended relatives from Alabama. They come to town during Emily's courting of Homer Barron to check on Emily's well-being. They are thought of as even more uptight and stuffy than Emily by the townspeople. They are called in to prevent Emily and Homer from marrying; however, they are later sent back home so that the two can be wed. There seems to be some type of dispute between Emily and the cousins, indicated by them living far away from Emily and the fact that they did not go to Emily’s father’s funeral.
Tobe - Emily's cook/gardener, who is also very likely her secret keeper. During the years of Emily's isolation, he provides no details of her life to the townspeople and promptly disappears directly following her death. He became old and stooped from all of his work while Emily grew large and immobile. This could suggest that he resented Emily, or at the very least disliked working for her, as he does not mourn her or stay for her funeral.