That such a boisterous, outgoing man-we are told, for example, that "pretty soon he knew everybody in town" (124)-should want to spend solitary time with Jefferson's most isolated and secretive citizen should alert our suspicions, but for reasons different than those inferred by the townspeople.
Instead, say Deconstructionists, Reader-Response theorists, and Subjectivist critics such as Stanley Fish, Wolfgang Iser, and Norman Holland, respectively, the classroom should resemble a democracy, a place where competing interpretations vie on a level playing field for favor, a veritable maelstrom of first-amendment praxis. When these students are asked why they believe or suspect that Homer is gay, they invariably cite the following line: "Homer himself had remarked-he liked men, and it was known that he drank with the younger men in the Elks' Club-that he was not a marrying man" (126) For the sake of argument, and out of deference to the conclusion of many of our students, if not to the current trends in literary theory, let us suppose that Homer Barron is, or might be, homosexual-that he really likes men.
As Fish proclaims in his famous essay "Is There A Text In This Class? How would this presumption affect, in some ways govern, our reading of the story?
And Homer himself is described as a dashing, flamboyant figure--"With his hat cocked and a cigar in his teeth, reins and whip in a yellow glove" (126)-more of a Colonel Sutpen or Dalton Ames than a Gail Hightower.
If he were simply interested in a temporary dalliance, the cavalier Homer could have done better than the grim, aging Emily Grierson.
Given the narrative framework of the story, we can only imagine-we are not privy to-the loneliness and longing that Emily must have felt to have killed a man and slept beside his decaying corpse; yet we must undertake perhaps an equivalent imaginative flight to comprehend the confusion and frustration endured by Homer Barron, a gay man in an age when homosexuality was virtually tantamount to necrophilia.
Given the unrelieved constraints of his predicament, accentuated by the small-town Southern setting, Homer understandably might have sought out a confessor, a sympathetic ear to whom he could divulge his guilty secret.One of the numerous, underappreciated advantages of being a teaching assistant or lecturer is the opportunity to teach anthologized stories over and over again to more or less recalcitrant freshmen.Though surprises, good and bad, occur, one becomes pretty adept at anticipating students' reactions and deducing their readerly assumptions and habits.A homosexual "day laborer" in the turn-of-the-century South is almost as remarkable and confounding as a hincty, love-starved necrophiliac.That they should form an attachment (the nature of which, under this scenario, also calls for greater scrutiny) would lead us to suppose that the story really concerns both of them as a pair, alter egos of a sort, rather than Emily in isolation, as the title would indicate.These are all legitimate, even inevitable questions, but, as most teachers of the story no doubt point out, Faulkner's choice of narrator precludes our ever providing unequivocal answers.The first-person narrator, who represents and reports the consensus view of the townspeople, assumes that Emily is what she appears to be: a fusty, antiquated Southern Belle.If so, did Homer get cold feet, or did Emily simply take preemptive measures against that eventuality?Yet another question, or mystery, is why did Homer Barron, a rowdy extrovert, take up with the spinsterly Emily Grierson in the first place?Thus, as our brighter students might reasonably argue, if Emily Grierson so adamantly defies appearances, and convention, why not Homer Barron, her immortally beloved?Thematically, would it not be fitting if Homer, too, were not what he pretends or is supposed to be?