In “A Rose for Emily,” William Faulkner uses a first-person plural narrator. The consistent but ambiguous use of “we,” “us,” and “our” is one of the story’s most distinctive features. The narrator is never named, and their gender is not specified. The narrator does not use first-person singular point of view, which would involve self-reference: “I.” In dialogue, however, Emily often refers to herself as “I.” The author also fails to identify the other person or persons included in the “we” that the narrator frequently invokes.
By withholding this information, Faulkner creates the impression that the speaker is offering the collective voice of the entire town. Rather than refer to specific persons, this “we” may include anyone who holds the same opinions that this speaker expresses. This possibility is suggested by the narrator’s statement in the first paragraph that “our whole town went to” Emily's funeral.
In part 1, the narrator only occasionally interjects “our” views, so the story initially seems to be an objective, third-person narrative. The instances when they use first-person become more frequent as the story progresses. For example, in part 2, when the narrator first refers to “her sweetheart,” they further identify him as “the one we believed would marry her.” Similarly, in talking about Emily’s continued unmarried status, the narrator gives this opinion.
When she got to be thirty and was still single, we were not pleased exactly, but vindicated.
Their discussion of the family’s supposed insanity in relationship to Emily’s reluctance to bury her father prompts additional opinions:
We did not say she was crazy then. We believed she had to do that. 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 had robbed her.
By the story’s end, the narrator’s identification with the whole town’s opinions has become well established. In the last line, they enter her house and comment on what “we” see on the bed.
One of us lifted something from [the pillow], and … we saw a long strand of iron-gray hair.