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?These same students might be heartened to learn that an obstinate allegiance to their own particular reading of the text, any text, is validated by the most voguish literary theory. If this is the case, then meaning is not something one discovers or extracts but, rather, something one confers or creates.
We need to be more inquisitive, more penetrating, than our workaday narrator.
As the ghastly conclusion of the story makes clear, however, our narrator and the townspeople he represents had only and always seen Emily from the outside-as the fact that they penetrate the inside of her house only after her death emphasizes.
There are depths to Emily Grierson that the superficial gaze of the narrator could not reach.
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.