What is the writing style in "A Rose for Emily"?

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"A Rose for Emily" is a short story by William Faulkner. It is narrated by a third person narrator who is not named and is assumed to speak as the voice of the Mississippi town in which the story is set. The writing style of the story is related to this narrative perspective, as it also determines the tone and structure of the story.

The story's tone is determined by the narrator and his/her attitude toward Miss Emily Grierson, the title character. The narrator is obviously curious and interested in Emily, but he/she also does not seem to know Emily very well. The narrative voice is gossipy, and most of the information in the story is based on rumor. The narrator and the town's observations from the outside provide the rest of the information. Emily has no voice in her story; we never get her perspective. As no one in the town knows her very well, they cannot report accurately on her life. The narrator tells us that Emily is "a tradition, a duty, and a care" in the eyes of the townspeople. Because of the family's history in the town (they apparently used to be very influential, they were once wealthy, and they once had special privileges in the town), the narrator and the community cannot simply ignore Emily as an eccentric old woman. There is something about her that they respect. 

Finally, the narrator determines the unconventional structure of the story. "A Rose for Emily" is organized into numbered sections. The first section announces that Emily is dead and that the town is interested in seeing the inside of her house. Then, the narrator goes back and tells us, in a rather disorganized manner, a series of details about Emily's life (again, gleaned from the outside, through observation and rumor). Eventually, the story ends up back in the house after Emily's death, where the people discover a decaying dead body in a bedroom that is decorated like a bridal chamber. It turns out that Emily had been sleeping with Homer's body for years, that she probably bought the rat poison to kill him, and that she fantasized about their wedding day, which was never to be. The way the story is organized creates suspense and leaves readers shocked at the ending. However, during a second reading, we can go back and see some clues that serve as foreshadowing (the smell at Emily's house, the disappearance of Homer, and Emily's purchase of the poison). At the same time, the narrator has already created some sympathy for Miss Emily through the story, so it is difficult for readers to dismiss her outright, even with the shocking final revelation.

The story could also be described as symbolic, in the sense that Emily as a character and her relationship with Homer (or rather his dead body) represent the decaying Old South and the extinction of the old values of the antebellum period. Some who had power in that time tried desperately to hang on to the past, but they too, like Emily, will die one day, as the world around them progresses.

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