When the narrator wasn't around Emily how did he get his information?

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bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The unnamed narrator of William Faulkner's short story, "A Rose for Emily," serves as a spokesman for the town. We are led to believe he/she is a member of the community, so he is privy to the stories and gossip that are passed on by the citizens of Jefferson. The narrator is not truly omniscient, since he only reveals information that could be obtained by others. He does not read Emily's thoughts or dictate other facts that could only be known to Emily. So, think of him as a curious neighbor interested in the activities of the town's most curious member.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I do not know that this particular narrator ever was "not around Emily."  I think that he (she, they?) is not necessarily an actual person.  To me, the narrator is almost like an omniscient third person narrator, even though "he" speaks in the first person collective ("we" etc).

So I think that the narrator is always around Miss Emily in some sense -- at least whenever Miss Emily is outside her house or when anyone else (other than Tobe) is with her.  That leads me to believe that the narrator might be the whole town.

So I guess I'd say that the narrator sees and knows everything that any town member outside Miss Emily and Tobe can see and know.

lfawley's profile pic

lfawley | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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When the narrator was not directly in Emily's presence (which, because she isolated herself for so long was much of the time) he gathered his information about her from other people. Even in his opening description of her, he sites a tale invented by Colonol Sartoris:

Not that Miss Emily would have accepted charity. Colonel Sartoris invented an involved tale to the effect that Miss Emily's father had loaned money to the town, which the town, as a matter of business, preferred this way of repaying. Only a man of Colonel Sartoris' generation and thought could have invented it, and only a woman could have believed it.

He sites, too, the tales told by the ladies of the town who complained about the smell emanating from her home. He indicates that they were not surprised about it because her house was being kept by a negro man and, in their eyes, a man could not possibly be expected to keep a kitchen clean.

In fact, a close reading of the text allows you to note that the majority of the narrator's information comes from an undefined "they" - meaning various people of the town ranging from government officials to gossipy women. He associates himself as a member of the town among a group of people simply known as "we" such as in this statement:

We had long thought of them as a tableau, Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door. So when she got to be thirty and was still single, we were not pleased exactly, but vindicated; even with insanity in the family she wouldn't have turned down all of her chances if they had really materialized.

Note the repeated use of we in the narrator's observations. It is evidence gathered from the collective consciousness of a town that has built up a legend around this woman and who do not become privy to the truth until after her death. If you continue a detailed examination of the piece, this becomes evident and you are afforded with many other examples of second-hand information about Emily's actions.

lfawley's profile pic

lfawley | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

When the narrator was not directly in Emily's presence (which, because she isolated herself for so long was much of the time) he gathered his information about her from other people. Even in his opening description of her, he sites a tale invented by Colonol Sartoris:

Not that Miss Emily would have accepted charity. Colonel Sartoris invented an involved tale to the effect that Miss Emily's father had loaned money to the town, which the town, as a matter of business, preferred this way of repaying. Only a man of Colonel Sartoris' generation and thought could have invented it, and only a woman could have believed it.

He sites, too, the tales told by the ladies of the town who complained about the smell emanating from her home. He indicates that they were not surprised about it because her house was being kept by a negro man and, in their eyes, a man could not possibly be expected to keep a kitchen clean.

In fact, a close reading of the text allows you to note that the majority of the narrator's information comes from an undefined "they" - meaning various people of the town ranging from government officials to gossipy women. He associates himself as a member of the town among a group of people simply known as "we" such as in this statement:

We had long thought of them as a tableau, Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door. So when she got to be thirty and was still single, we were not pleased exactly, but vindicated; even with insanity in the family she wouldn't have turned down all of her chances if they had really materialized.

Note the repeated use of we in the narrator's observations. It is evidence gathered from the collective consciousness of a town that has built up a legend around this woman and who do not become privy to the truth until after her death. If you continue a detailed examination of the piece, this becomes evident and you are afforded with many other examples of second-hand information about Emily's actions.

superprime's profile pic

superprime | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

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    the narrator was Tobe, just interpret the end of the story and how he always calls her miss Emily as the narrator...

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