A Rose for Emily Questions and Answers
by William Faulkner

A Rose for Emily book cover
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For whom does the unnamed narrator profess to be speaking in Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily"?

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orchidifference eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The unnamed narrator is writing from the first person plural point of view—an interesting choice on the part of the author, William Faulkner. The narrator seems to represent the entire town, which stands in opposition to Emily. The narrator is a member of the "next generation, with its more modern ideas, while Emily is more closely affiliated with "the ranked and anonymous . . . Union and Confederate soldiers who fell at the battle of Jefferson." The narrator speaks with a mingled sense of sympathy but also satisfaction as they watch Emily descend into madness induced by isolation. Faulkner writes,

When her father died, it got about that the house was all that was left to her; and in a way, people were glad. At last they could pity Miss Emily. Being left alone, and a pauper, she had become humanized. Now she too would know the old thrill and the old despair of a penny more or less.

This line perfectly encapsulates the "pity" that Emily arouses in the narrator and the other townspeople but also the schadenfreude evoked by seeing Emily lose her status as a member of the southern elite society.

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Although the unnamed narrator does not directly profess to be speaking for anyone in particular in the story, there has been much conjecture on the question of whom he or she represents.  The enotes link below refers to Rodman's article in The Faulkner Journal, which concludes that the narrator, who uses collective pronouns such as "us" and "we", speaks for the majority of the average people, or the community, in which Emily Grierson lived. 

In the critical essay also cited below, Burdick poses the interesting possiblity that the narrator may in fact be a woman.  He reasons that the sympathetic tone as well as the intimate familiarity and concern for the minute details for Emily's life would be more likely noted and expressed by a woman of her time than a male. 

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