What is the point of view of "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner?

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lmetcalf's profile pic

lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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This is an important question to consider whenever you read a piece of fiction, and in this story, the choice of narrator adds a thematic element to the story.  One of the significant themes of the story is the difference between the generations in the town.  The narrator of the story is a man of the younger generation who in a stream of consciousness manner tells us the story of Miss Emily.  What sparks his telling of the story is Miss Emily's funeral, which is the first "event" of the story.  As he establishes her character, he then jumps around in time to relate small antecdotes about her life that will ultimately lead up to and explain the revelation he tells of in the last paragraphs of the story.  In a loosely logical way he tells how she sent away the tax men just as she sent away their father's thirty years before about the smell.  He goes on to talk about the smell, doesn't reveal the source.  He talks about how Miss Emily wouldn't let the townspeople bury her dead father for three days after he died. He then jumps to telling us about her courtship by Homer and his subsequent leaving of her.  There is mention of a crazy aunt, a time when she bought some poison, and the fact that she taught China painting lesson to the older generation's children, but that the newer generation didn't send their daughters to her.  It seems that this is all a random collection of information, until we read the last section of the story.  Here is where the narrator really packs his punches, so to speak.  He saves for last that after Miss Emily's death they broke into a closed up room of her house and found the dead body of Homer in a bed and a long strand of iron gray hair on the pillow beside him.  The implication of the detail being that she had slept with the dead corpse for at least a few years after his death.  The narrator knows he has a great story to tell, and tells in such a way as to deliver us with the shocking surprise at the end.  If the story had been told in chronological order it wouldn't have been as great.  The narrator, from a younger generation, can have sympathy for Miss Emily because times and attitudes had changed from when she was a young woman.  The older generation judged her for her relationship with Homer; the younger generation can understand better that she did what she did to keep hold of a love that had been denied her by her father.

lacrosseollie's profile pic

lacrosseollie | Student, College Freshman

Posted on

In the context that it was written by Faulkner it focuses on the induvidual and their relationship with society. Emily is an old woman that was outcasted by never getting married and the townsfolk always seemes to leave her alone because of her fathers realtionship with the old mayor. Her house smelled, and the outside appearance reflected the town poorly and she never communicated with anyone besides her servant especially since none of er relatives remained in town showing the strain on the institute of community. Also you can come to the conclusion that she was lonely since she murdered her lover that was going to leave town, so that he would always be with her. This also arouses the idea that she found it socially acceptable to kill somebody. It is prevelant that she is stuck in her old ways and is an example of the Southern past that is afraid to change. Everything around her develops into a more modern society but she remains to live in her old house, communicating with no one from this new generation. But at the same time, from lack of a relationship between her and the community Emily detered from reolutionizing and became complacent till she died with her secrets and her old South ideals.

Another look at this story is the idea that Faulkner believed that a story could change the world and had a meaning. But in A Rose For Emily you never get the whole story. The only charachters that could possibly give you the perspective of what went on in Ms. Emily's house before she died was Emily and her servant. Neither of them ever spoke to anyone in the community, and they may not of even spoken with eachother. But Faulkner purposely gives a story where the whole story is never told, leaving the reader to make the assumption of whether Emily really did kill her lover or not. The whole story is told from the point of veiw of the towns folk, but they aren't exactly great sources, thus making this a story of gossip. A story that may not even be a story at all, but a recollection of what people percieved when given snipets of reality, and their ideas of Emily.

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