I am writing an essay about "A Rose for Emily." My prompt is: "Does the community play an important role in the short story? Why or why not?" I said yes. I can only think of two reasons though. I...

I am writing an essay about "A Rose for Emily." My prompt is: "Does the community play an important role in the short story? Why or why not?"

I said yes. I can only think of two reasons though. I have that the community never reached out to her and they gossiped about her. I can't think of anything else. What are some other ideas?

Expert Answers
Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The points you make about the role of the community in "A Rose for Emily" are certainly true.  But I have a few other thoughts to share with you about the community's function in this story. 

First, think about the fact that the entire story is told from the community's point of view.  That makes a great deal of difference, I think.  We don't know what the story might look like if it were told from Miss Emily's point of view (which would be tricky, of course, since she dies in the story), or what the story would look like from the point of view of an omniscient narrator, who would allow us to see what was going on in Miss Emily's head, in her father's mind, even in her dead lover's thoughts.  What we know of Miss Emily is from a particular perspective, that of the townspeople who have observed Miss Emily and her family from a distance.  That distance means that we must make our own inferences to fill in what the townspeople are not able to tell us. 

And that brings me to the second point you will want to think about, which is that there is a class divide between Miss Emily and the townspeople.  Miss Emily is from a wealthy family. The rest of the people in town are poor or perhaps middle-class.  Her family represents the aristocracy.  All of Miss Emily's actions are reported through the filter of some class prejudice, I think, and a certain schadenfreude, a sort of satisfaction in how the mighty have fallen.  There may be some affection for Miss Emily, the madwoman in the crumbling mansion, but there is also a slight mocking tone as the community describes what happens to her. It would be a very different story if someone of Miss Emily's class were reporting what happened to her. 

The community in the story does matter a great deal because it is the filter through which we hear the story.  This is an interesting assignment because it allows you to analyze the point of view of the story. You could contrast the varying points of view through which the story could have been told, and as you analyze this, you will see how important this community really is!  

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A Rose for Emily

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