In-depth analysis of some of the most popular short stories including summaries, character analysis, narrative technique, symbolism and much more.


Monday, October 21, 2013

A Rose for Emily Narrator

Narrative Technique: “A Rose For Emily”

A Rose For Emily Narrator
Image courtesy of Bergadder on

Who is the Narrator?

The unnamed narrator in William Faulkner’s “A Rose For Emily” is a resident of the town in which the main character Emily lives. Although the true identity of the narrator is never revealed, the reader is left with some clues. Helen Nebeker notes that narrator may have been a part of a group of men in town who had hoped to become the ideal mate for Emily, but who never lived up to her father’s standards (5). The narrator does show himself to be male based on his attempt to not attach himself to the ladies in his town. The narrator in Section II of the story refers to the women as “the ladies”, and is careful to ensure that at no time he establishes any attachment to the women beyond merely being neighbors. Also when discussing the lie that Colonel Sartoris had come up with to excuse Emily’s from paying taxes, the narrator states that it’s a lie and only a woman would accept that excuse. The narrator’s transition from a non-participant to a participant narrator may also provide a clue as to the narrator’s identity.  Helen Nebeker observes, “Within all five sections we note a continual shifting of person, from our to they to we… Miss Emily” (4). The constant switch between first person and third person narrative, is indicative of someone who may not have seen firsthand all the events of the plot. In Section I, the narrator consistently uses the word “they” in reference to the meeting between Emily and the town’s officials. The narrator, however, switches to a participant and begins using the first person narrative as Emily ages. This transition is evidence that the narrator may have been younger than Emily, and may have been given background information on the main character due to his association with the town’s officials. It is also possible that the narrator is actually a town official, the narrator hints at his association in Section IV, “Each December we sent her a tax notice.”

Significance of the Narrative Voice

Whoever the narrator is, he is central to the stories progression and to the suspense. The narrator’s experience is central to understanding Emily, and it is actually the only way the reader is able to build an understanding of who Emily is. It is often asked why did William Faulkner allow the story to be told from the point of view of the anonymous narrator than from Emily? The story is best told from his point of view as opposed to the main character because his lack of knowledge is crucial to the development of the plot. The narrator’s failure to realize that Emily had intended to kill "rats" (This is an instance of foreshadowing used by William Faulkner), instead of committing suicide, allows the suspense of the story to be preserved, and therefore hold the reader’s interest in the plot. The reader would have been robbed of the drama, and intense shock surrounding the discovery of the body in her room, the room being embalmed with her memories, and her symbolic “iron gray hair”. These are events in the plot which could not have been told by Emily due to her mental state. Emily would have been easily classified as an unreliable narrator, and therefore her retelling of events would not have been valid. It was essential that both the narrator and reader make the discovery of a dead Homer Barron at the same time, because it shows that as much as the narrator and people of the town had scrutinized Emily, no one knew who Emily Grierson truly was.

Nebeker, Helen E. “Emily’s Rose of Love: Thematic Implications of Point of View in Faulkner’s
            “A Rose For Emily.” The Bulletin of the Rock Mountain Modern Language Association
            24.1 (1970): 3-13. Web. 30 January 2012.

No comments:

Post a Comment