What is the narrator's attitude toward Miss Emily?

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The famous short story "A Rose for Emily," by William Faulkner, begins at Miss Emily's funeral and spans decades of her life in flashback. The emphasis on tradition, decay, and death in the story are typical of the subgenre of Southern Gothic, which uses dark themes and symbolism to highlight eccentric and disturbed characters in the historic American South. The narrator is a resident of the town in which the story takes place. Most of the time, his attitude is somewhat detached and journalistic. He approaches the events he writes about not from an individualistic viewpoint but rather from the viewpoint of the town in general, usually using the first-person plural "we" rather than the first-person singular "I" to offer his observations. As one of the townspeople, the narrator is caught up in the traditional southern society that its citizens seek to preserve. When he writes about Emily, even though he honestly describes her physical degradation and the deterioration of her house, he is at the same time deferential and even apologetic, excusing her behavior due to her difficult upbringing and ongoing misfortunes. Even at the end, after the townspeople have opened the door to the forbidden room and found the corpse of Emily's murdered lover, the narrator is not condemnatory. It is almost as if the entire story is written in justification of the shocking truth that the town uncovers.

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The narrator of William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" seems ambivalent towards her, at some points condemning her and at other pitying her and even supporting her. Because the narrative voice is that of the collective opinion of the town, this ambivalence reflects that of the new south towards its own older southern heritage.

When the narrator describes Miss Emily as a bloated and pallid, this seems to emphasize that she belongs to a dying world. The description of her as an idol, though, suggests that a certain residual reverence for her and the old south remains even when people no longer are ostensibly part of that culture. Although the narrator roots for Emily in her romance, hoping she triumphs against the "ladies", the perfidy of the lover suggests that even when the old aristocracy tries to embrace new northern ideas, they will not succeed.

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