How does the author use the varied attitudes of the community towards Miss Emily in the short story, "A Rose for Emily"?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

    Author William Faulkner tells much of the short story, "A Rose for Emily," from the perspective of "first person collective," an unusual style that puts the unnamed and unidentified narrator as a part of the community. The narrator often uses the word "we" in describing the town's feelings about Miss Emily Grierson. It gives the story a personal feel inasmuch as the narrator seems to have an intimate knowledge of the main character.
    In addition to the narrator's personal comments, views of the community are given in reference to personal opinions and observations about the activities of Emily Grierson. For example:

"Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town."

    Sometimes the narrator gives specific quotes from other townspeople:

That night the Board of Aldermen met--three gray-beard and one younger man, a member of the rising generation. 
     'It's simple enough," he said.  'Send her word to have her place cleaned up. Give her a certain time to do it in, and if she don't...' 
     'Dammit, sir,' Judge Stevens said, "will you accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad?"

    The treatment given Miss Emily by the narrator is primarily sympathetic, particularly concerning her bad luck with Homer Barron and for her mental state of being. She is unsociable, snobbish and cantankerous, but she is also

... a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town... Thus she passed from generation to generation--dear, inescapable, impervious, tranquil, and perverse.

    In the end, when the townspeople discover the contents of the mysterious, locked upstairs room, the narrator tells the story as if he is one of the curious members who witness the body, pillow and single hair. The grisly scene is as much a surprise to the narrator as it is to the first-time reader.

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A Rose for Emily

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