Chosen by Hazel Boyle
She carried her head high enough–even when we believed that she was fallen. Miss Emily Grierson lives with her father in Jefferson, a town known for The Battle of Jefferson in the War of Northern Aggression. The mood is such that you can smell magnolias and trepidation below the surface. Miss Emily puts a foot wrong, so the townspeople believe, when, after her father’s death, she takes up with Homer Barron, a manual labourer and a Yankee! [pass me the sal volatile!] Not only that but she refuses to acknowledge that property taxes are required of a woman of her status, nor does she need to provide a reason for purchasing arsenic. Various cousins arrive to provide companionship/spying for the family, but Miss Emily is going to do what she is going to do. Spoiler: Miss Emily and Mr. Barron do not live happily ever after but they do stay in close contact.
This is a twisted tale that I first read in 8th grade when I thought I was a genius and invincible and that I would still never have a boyfriend. This spoke to my inner awkwardness and anger, but also gave me a creepy forbidden thrill that Emily just did it. “Don’t you know how amazing I am! Why aren’t you willing to stay.”
First published in The Forum, April 1930. Collected in the Collected Stories, Vintage, 2009
Hazel Boyle has a lifelong obsession with books and writing and works as an office manager to pay her husband’s library fines.