How does  the narrator in "A Rose for Emily" contribute to the plot development?

Expert Answers
M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The narrative of William Faulkner's short story "A Rose for Emily" is given by a first person, objective narrator that has no impact in the story other than to tell the audience how the events develop. This first person narrator, however, never speaks as a single narrator and always uses the pronoun "we", as the story develops. Therefore, whoever does the narration, it is certainly representing the townspeople speaking as one.

When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral.

This shows the solidarity of the entire town towards a woman whom they hardly ever see and merely hear of from mouth to mouth. However, they also show solidarity in the way that they analyze and feel for her and her choices

She told them that her father was not dead. She did that for three days, with the ministers calling on her, and the doctors, trying to persuade her to let them dispose of the body. Just as they were about to resort to law and force, she broke down, and they buried her father quickly.

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, as people will.

In terms of the plot development, the first person objective can only take us through the story fact by fact. In the case of "A Rose for Emily", these facts are not even put in chronological order, but in a string of events that go back and forth in the story of Emily's life.

However, this impersonal and realistic manner of narrative is what moves the plot forward and instills more interest in the reader; for it allows for the making of conjectures and assumptions.

And so she died. Fell ill in the house filled with dust and shadows, with only a doddering Negro man to wait on her. We did not even know she was sick; we had long since given up trying to get any information

These assumptions, made in the reader's mind, are precisely what Faulkner wants so that, when the shocking twist of the story comes at the end, the impact of the final scene is even more powerful.

For a long while we just stood there, looking down at the profound and fleshless grin..[...]and upon him and upon the pillow beside him lay that even coating of the patient and biding dust.

Then we noticed that in the second pillow was the indentation of a head. One of us lifted something from it, and leaning forward, that faint and invisible dust dry and acrid in the nostrils, we saw a long strand of iron-gray hair.

dapam | Student

A Rose for Emily is a story that creates a doom-laden atmosphere in which a spinster who completely shuts herself in from the outside world is the topic of much gossip and speculations. The story is told from a community point of view through a first person plural narrator “we.” The narrator speaks collectively, as if representing the town’s people. This becomes evident from the first sentence “When Miss emily Grierson died, our whole town went to the funeral…” “Our” in the statement as well as the use of “we”, “ours”, and “us” throughout the story definitely tells the reader that the narrator is a member of the community.

As the story unfolds the reader recognises that the narrator uses hearsay and gossip to tell portions of the story. For example, when he says “We learned that Miss Emily had been to the jewellers and ordered a man’s toilet set in silver, with the letters H.B. on each piece Two days later we learned that she bought a complete outfit of men’s clothing….” This is just hearsay as far as the narrator knows for sure. Speculation about  what Miss Emily will and will not do is also out of control. For example, when she was seen with Mr. Homer Barron, according to the narrator “we had said, she will marry him.” When she went to the drugstore and bought arsenic “…we all said, she will kill herself.” The reader is also tempted to speculate as to what Miss Emily will do because she seems so far removed from the changes going on around her.

The narrator uses flashbacks to tell the story. The first part of the story tells of the time “when Miss Emily died…” which is explained in more detail at the very end of the story. Then it switches back the telling the story of the events that happened before she died “Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition.…” I think the act of changing the view adds suspense to the story.