Describe the narrator of "A Rose for Emily." Is he sympathetic to Emily?
In A Rose For Emily, the narrator is unnamed; he is presumably a citizen of the town where Emily lived. In the story, the narrator refers to himself using collective pronouns. It is as if he becomes the voice of the citizens of Jefferson. He relates the story of Emily's life, her eccentricity, her reclusive ways, her subsequent descent into madness, and her dysfunctional relationship with her father. Although he attempts to appear dispassionate and detached from Emily's story, it is obvious that he eventually ends up feeling pretty sorry for Emily.
The narrator's use of collective pronouns in reference to himself highlights his identification with the townsfolk of Jefferson. He confesses that Emily was disliked for a time due to manifesting the high-minded and arrogant ways characteristic of a Grierson. Because of her position in Jefferson, Emily's behavior was just barely tolerated; indeed, humoring her became a burdensome accommodation.
Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town...
Due to her pride against accepting charity after her father's death, Colonel Sartoris coins a story about her father's past largess to the town of Jefferson in order to spare Emily from having to pay taxes on her expensive property.
The narrator confesses that people didn't really start to feel sorry or sympathetic toward Emily until after her father passed away. This is because her Grierson hubris tended to alienate people; both the narrator and the people of Jefferson report feeling 'vindicated' when Emily is still single at thirty years old. After all, 'even with insanity in the family she wouldn't have turned down all of her chances if they had really materialized.' However, with her father's death, Emily's circumstances are reduced and she becomes humanized in the narrator's and townspeople's eyes.
Her further bizarre and eccentric denial of her father's death also causes the narrator to sympathize with Emily's lot in life. He reasons that she has to cling to an idealized image of her deceased father so as to mask the reality of her miserable years under his tyrannical authority. It is all she has, a reconstructed fantasy in place of a very painful reality.
We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which robbed her, as people will.