How does the point of view in the story "A Rose For Emily" by Faulkner, determine the way the story is told? In other words, if the narrator was changed, how would the story be different?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," the fact that the narrator is a member of the community enables the reader not only to learn the history of the community and the people in it, but—like someone telling a story—the narrator jumps about, weaving a story that does not follow a time-line, so that the end of the story takes the reader completely by surprise. This is one of the truly magnificent aspects of the story—that leads the unsuspecting reader into the extremely creepy details of the secret the townspeople discover after Miss Emily's death.

If told from a standpoint other than one of the men of the community—and it is one of the men, as the narrator is with the other "aldermen" when they visit Miss Emily to collect her taxes—I believe Miss Emily would not be presented as a sympathetic character.

Faulkner's narrator paints a picture of a pitiable creature in describing Miss Emily—only a "southern gentleman" would be so protective of this "fallen monument," which indicates that someone who was once truly great, has fallen from favor. The men attend her funeral "through a sort of respectful affection." The narrator remembers the days when Miss Emily's father was a respected man in town; but he also notes that it was Emily's father's fault that she never married...and was left alone—penniless—when he died. The male narrator engenders a sense of sympathy that would not be present, it would seem, if the narrator were a woman (though it should be noted that the narrator, speaking for the townspeople, is not always so "generous" in nature).

The reader learns that the women in town went to the funeral...

...mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house...

The women have a great deal to say about Miss Emily—a woman of the South—dating a Yankee...Homer Barron:

...the ladies all said, "Of course a Grierson would not think seriously of a Northerner, a day laborer."

The women later claim Emily is a bad influence, and take steps to put a stop to her behavior:

...some of the ladies began to say that it was a disgrace to the town and a bad example to the young people. The men did not want to interfere, but at last the ladies forced the Baptist minister—Miss Emily's people were Episcopal—to call upon her...he refused to go back again.


...the minister's wife wrote to Miss Emily's relations in Alabama.

The cousins arrive—soon to leave—and Miss Emily is left to her own devices again. Homer Barron leaves and never seems. As Miss Emily becomes more reclusive, the townspeople finally leave her alone to worry about other things.

Had a woman of this community been writing the story, we can assume that there would have been no sympathy for Miss Emily, as there is from the story's narrator. The women are judgmental and interfering. Whereas the narrator, present when they go through Miss Emily's home, is totally unprepared for what secrets the bedroom reveals, I wonder—based upon the response of the women in the community throughout the story—that a female narrator might not have crowed something like, "I knew it!" Or, "The Griersons always thought they were better than anyone else—Hah! Miss Emily was an abomination to God!"

Whereas the male narrator is charitable, I think a female would have been more accusatory and vicious in recounting Miss Emily's role in the town's history.

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