Describe the narrator of "A Rose for Emily".

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The narrator in Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" is a group of townspeople: 1st person plural (collective) "we."  This is rare in literature to have many voices distilled into one.

The narrators are outside narrators.  They once might have had access to Miss Emily's house parlor, but not any more.  They have never had access to her upstairs bridal suite.  As such, the story is essentially all gossip, rumor, and speculation.

You can make a case that the group is either all male or female.  There is a male authorial tone to the narration: the men confront her about the taxes.  The men spread lime around the house.  There is a male gaze, an objectification of Emily as "other" (hence, the rose).  They represent the patriarchal tradition (male – law – authority):

Colonel Sartoris, the mayor--he who fathered the edict that … the dispensation dating from the death of her father on into perpetuity.


We are the city authorities, Miss Emily. Didn't you get a notice from the sheriff, signed by him?

There's also an implicit female voice buried in the narration: the last people granted access to the house were the women who would have taken China painting classes from Miss Emily.  Since they were the last, maybe they began the rumors...

Overall, it's hard to tell which gender is exclusive.  Maybe it's a mix.  So says, Enotes:

There are hints as to the age, race, gender, and class of the narrator, but an identity is never actually revealed. Isaac Rodman notes in The Faulkner Journal that the critical consensus remains that the narrator speaks for his community. (Rodman, however, goes on to present a convincing argument that the narrator may be a loner or eccentric of some kind speaking from ‘‘ironic detachment.’’)

Faulkner uses these narrators to heighten the suspense of the story.  It is the reverse of dramatic irony (when the audience knows what is going to happen before the characters).  Here, Miss Emily knows what has happened to Homer Baron, but we do not, until the end (after she dies).

epollock | Student

The narrator is the one who rveals everyhting about the protagonist, Emily. Everything we know of Emily is derived from the narrator, who does not identify himself even though he keeps his eyes and ears open for details about her. He speaks to people in the town who have made their own observations, and he acquires details rapidly and fully, as we learn from the scene between Emily and the druggist (paragraphs 34–42). Even though the narrator reports rumors and misapprehensions about Emily, it seems clear that Faulkner intends that these rumors and reports be taken as true details about Emily’s life. At the story’s conclusion the narrator has joined the group ("they") who break down the door to the upstairs room that had been Emily’s bedroom. It is then that the narrator uses "we" to indicate that he has been an actual first-hand observer of the scene of decay that the people discover on Emily’s bed.