In "A Rose for Emily," what does the narrator symbolize? How does the narrator add to tone?

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Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The unnamed narrator represents both the consciousness and unconsciousness of the town. He symbolizes their neglect and self-centered nature that has allowed one of their own to die an ignominious death.

Faulkner is careful to never give his narrator a clear identity. Throughout the story, the narrator refers to the actions of the townspeople as "we or "our." The subtle influence of the pronouns is indicative of the culpability of the entire community, thus providing the tone of guilt. In Part II, the narrator recalls:

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.

The neglect of Emily is not fully understood by the town (whose spokesperson is the narrator) until the end. Part IV reiterates the all-as-one theme. The narrator says:

For a long while we just stood there, looking down at the profound and fleshless grin....Then we noticed that in the second pillow was the indentation of a head One of us lifted
something from it, and leaving forward, that faint and invisible dust dry and acrid in the nostrils, we saw a long strand of iron-gray hair.

Notice how the narrator refuses to even acknowledge which of the people lifts the sheet..."one of us," he says, as if all are acting as one, and all are guilty of the crime of indifference.

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A Rose for Emily

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