Discussion Topic

Narrator's Relationship and Attitude Toward Emily in "A Rose for Emily"

Summary:

The narrator in "A Rose for Emily" portrays a complex relationship with Emily, blending respect, curiosity, and pity. They represent the collective voice of the townspeople, offering a mix of admiration for her aristocratic background and judgment for her reclusive and eccentric behavior. This collective perspective provides a nuanced view of Emily's life and actions.

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How is the narrator's relationship with the reader in "A Rose for Emily" characterized?

The narration in “A Rose for Emily” is first person using “we,” but we never really know much about the narrator.

The story begins with a description of Emily’s funeral.

When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole towns went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house…

After getting our attention, the narrator goes on to tell us about Emily’s life, and why she was a “monument.”  The narrator jumps around, topically and chronologically.  The reader never really knows who this “we” is, and it is almost as if the town is narrating the story. 

Normally in first person narration there is little distance between the narrator and the reader.  It is if the narrator is talking directly to the reader in a conversation.  However, we never really can get close to the narrator, because he or she keeps out of the story.  We never know exactly who this person is, so even though the story is told in the first person, there is a distance from the narrator.  Since the narrator is also telling the town’s story, or Emily’s story, we are even more distanced from the narrator.  The use of “we” distances the narrator from us even more.

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What are the narrator's feelings towards Emily in "A Rose for Emily"?

In A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner the narrator is a third person omniscient who uses the term "we" to falsely provoke the feeling that it is a first person, but it is a normal thing for Faulkner to both entertain and surprise the reader with the use of creative licenses.

In A Rose for Emily, it is widely accepted that the commentary is a compilation of thoughts and feelings from the townsfolk, used as a way to "let us in" in the ongoing gossip that does not cease about Miss Emily.

At the beginning we find the narrator describing Emily with a bit of uneasiness. The narrator focuses more on her dying looks, on her eyesore among eyesores of a house, and tells her story as if feeling sorry for this woman who once was a symbol of Southern wealth and influence.

As the story progresses, we see that the narrator changes the voice and we find that the narrative is more at tandem with Emily's life: We learn more about the influence of the sisters, about Homer's "past-times", and about many secrets we couldn't identify at the beginning. Finally, at the end the narrator looks more condescending and explains the oddity of her behavior in a way that is more compassionate than morbid. This is perhaps the best favor that the narrator did for Emily, and for which he or she offered Emily "the rose" of compassion when telling about her life.

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What is the author's attitude toward Emily Grierson in "A Rose for Emily"?

William Faulkner, the author, crafted his stories about the South from stories he head from his grandfather.  I think that the author's tone is sympathetic towards Miss Emily.  He never mentions that she is crazy or a criminal.  In fact, when you read this story, you feel no judgement of Emily from the author, only sadness for a wasted life. 

Her life is lost in the slow death of the old South, and her father's domination.  As she struggles to deal with her loneliness, she picks the wrong man, Homer Barron. 

The fact that Faulkner wrote this character, Homer Barron, the way he did, tells me that he needed to express the absolute bad luck that Miss Emily experienced in her life.  First her father prevents her from finding a husband, once he is dead, she starts going out with a man, even though he is a Yankee, he prefers men to women.  It couldn't possibly get any worse for Emily.

I think he feels sorry for her.  He writes her as a victim of circumstances beyond her control. 

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What is the author's attitude toward Emily Grierson in "A Rose for Emily"?

I agree about the notion of control. "She clung to that which had robbed her, as people do." This is a potent thought. Her father had robbed her of any chance to be courted, yet she clung to her father's dead body. Homer had taken quite a bit from Emily, of course she gave it to him, yet when it seems she knew he was due to leave, she clung to him.... for 40 years.

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What is the author's attitude toward Emily Grierson in "A Rose for Emily"?

I think the narrator treats her as an eccentric old woman who might have a few skeletons in her closet (or upstairs bedroom). He doesn't moralize about her or her ways. In fact, he may be telling us more about the townspeople who, although not abusive to her, were neglectful in letting her become such a hermit and isolate herself from them.

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What is the author's attitude toward Emily Grierson in "A Rose for Emily"?

There are some other subtle hints at her lack of stability as well.  Consider the "artwork" above the fireplace; rather than a painting or other professional-looking piece, she has a drawing she did herself with a crayon... something resembling that which a child would do.  She also had a broken watch chain she would wear.  Do we read more into this, viewing it as a symbol for her sense of time being "broken", or simply see it as her inattention to details that normal functioning adults would note?  Either way, something is amiss.

Also, isn't it possible that Emily was embarrased that  Homer "preferred the company of men"?  The fact that she couldn't tell a homosexual from a potential heterosexual suitor shows that she is socially awkward to say the least.  I personally think that she figured it out, and that's why she said the poison was "for rats".    Or, the other school of thought here is that the pharmacist knew what she was up to, and agreed that Homer was indeed a yankee "rat". 

It's a very interesting story, and yes, necrophilia is definitely a major theme, not so much for the sexual abnormality, but rather for the sense of control; if someone is dead, they cannot complain about your performance, much less decide not to consent.  Isn't control over life/death an issue when she keeps her father's body? 

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What is the author's attitude toward Emily Grierson in "A Rose for Emily"?

Is Miss Emily insane? Nobody would argue that she was rational and well balanced (!), but is she insane, and how should insanity be defined?

In the legal sense, Emily G. was not insane. There is evidence that she knew what she was doing and that she knew it was wrong. She lied to the druggist about why she needed the arsenic, and she hid Homer's body in the attic where it remained for many years without being discovered. Emily was quite clever in murdering Homer; she planned carefully and covered all her bases.

So the question remains: Was she insane, or did she suffer instead from a number of personality disorders? It's an interesting question, but I don't think it would make any difference to poor Homer.

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What is the author's attitude toward Emily Grierson in "A Rose for Emily"?

In response to post #3:

I agree that living in the past does not mean that someone has psychological issues.  However, the fact that she refused to bury her father AND because she slept with the corpse of Homer suggests that she has some type of pyschological issues-quite possibly necrophilia.

Furthermore, Homer's murder can be seen as more of an attempt to keep him from leaving, rather than revenge.  By killing Homer, she was able to "live" with him until she herself died.  The fact that she slept in the same  bed with him certainly suggests necrophilia. 

Also, the author hints at psychological problems when he talks about Emily's family members that have psycological issues--perhaps it's hereditary.

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What is the author's attitude toward Emily Grierson in "A Rose for Emily"?

He is just stating the facts as he sees them.  She is representative of a bygone era, and so therefore, she is respected--not for herself but for what she symobolizes.  Is she nuts?  Not necessarily.  Lots of women live with only their servants.  Many exact revenge when they deem it necessary.  Lots of people--men and women alike--prefer to live in the past and hang on to what is comfortable and safe.

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What is the author's attitude toward Emily Grierson in "A Rose for Emily"?

In, "A Rose for Emily", the author's attitude seems to be more objective, than subjective. However, if we look closely at the story, there are subtle hints that the author almost pities Emily as a social recluse with mental problems.

For example, Emily's "indiscretions" (i.e. keeping her father's body, killing Homer and keeping his body) are described in an almost matter of fact style. However, the author does give us details about her life to let the readers now what lead her to these acts. For example, it is stated that some of her family members (aunts) suffer from mental problems. We also see that Emily sees death as not necessarily ending a relationship. For example, she kept her fathers body with her until the towns people made her remove.

Furthermore, Emily kills Homer (as you recall he was going to leave her) to keep him from leaving. In her mind, if he is dead, he will not be able to leave her, and thus they can continue their relationship. This is evident in the fact that at the end of the story, we find out that she has been sleeping in the bed with the corspe for many years.

So clearly the author portrays Emily, not as a "madwoman", but more as a social recluse who does not see death as an end to a relationship.

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What is the author's attitude toward Emily Grierson in "A Rose for Emily"? Is she simply a murderous madwoman?

Besides guilt, the narrator and townspeople also feel some admiration for the woman. During her life, they were somewhat afraid of her because she represented to them vestiges of an aristocratic past that still influences the town even though it has become modern. By the end of the story, the narrator shows an understanding of time and age in one of the most beautiful passages of the story. He says that the old folks came to her house upon her death, "talking of Miss Emily as if she had been a contemporary of theirs, believing that they had danced with her and courted her perhaps, confusing time with its mathematical progression, as the old do, to whom all the past is not a diminishing road, but, instead a huge meadow which no winter ever quite touches...." Even in her death, Emily remains alive in a romantic sort of way to the town--she was never quite human because she seemed "above" them, and for that reason she didn't seem quite dead, even while she lay on her bier. This romance, however, is shattered when they break down the door to enter her room and discover what her inability to come to grips with her own past did to her.

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What is the author's attitude toward Emily Grierson in "A Rose for Emily"? Is she simply a murderous madwoman?

You have one excellent answer.  Miss Emily is an icon in the town...at least what she stands for is the icon--last surviving antebellum lady, daughter of a Civil War hero and affluent family. She is to the town what famous movie stars and professional athletes are to us today...we admire them, but they are untouchable.  They do not always make the best decisions, but we want to be them.

The town, on one hand, admires her.  On the other hand, they are curious and angry that she gets special favors--no taxes are paid by this woman, and no one bothers to ask her why her house smells so horribly (you don't ask a southern lady why she has an odor).

Yes, she murdered Homer.  Perhaps she is mad.  More likely, she was lonely, and so steeped in a tradition of the southern lady that she couldn't allow Homer to muddy her reputation. 

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What is the author's attitude toward Emily Grierson in "A Rose for Emily"? Is she simply a murderous madwoman?

I think the narrator (do not confuse the narrator with the author) feels a great deal of guilt about the town's treatment of Emily.  She may be "mad" and "murderous" but her isolation and loneliness is what has driven the woman over the edge.  The narrator describes the town's attitude toward her in the first part of the story...she is the daughter of a Civil War hero, an "other" virtually untouchable (in more than one sense of the word) and unknowable (or so they choose to believe).

Roses are traditionally the symbol of love but also a funeral flower that, historically (before embalming) covered the scent of death.  We can think of the rose as one that Emily offered to Homer, or he to her, but the life of a rose is short-lived.  Or we can think of the townspeople offering her a rose on her casket, as an act of contrition and rememberance. 

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What are the narrator's biases in "A Rose for Emily"?

The narrator demonstrates negative and positive biases toward the title character.  First, he or she is obviously a regular participant in the gossip involving Miss Emily because the narrator presents not only detailed information about Miss Emily's history but also the opinions of the townspeople toward her. Similarly, the narrator's description of Miss Emily is hardly flattering.  He describes her as "fat" and corpselike.  While the description might be a frank one, someone who is truly concerned about another's feelings would find a more tactful way to describe that person.

The narrator also demonstrates a great deal of pity and sympathy for Miss Emily, and in that sense presents a more forgiving bias toward her. When Miss Emily shuts herself in the house with her father's body, the narrator admits that he and the town "did not say she was crazy then."  While the use of "then" implies that they do later think of her as crazy, in this paragraph, the narrator shows that he tries to understand Emily's eccentricities and realizes what a sheltered, confined life she has been forced to lead.

At the story's end, both biases are evident.  The narrator joins others in "invading" Miss Emily's long-held privacy after her death so that he or she can observe the spectacle of the deceased's room, but perhaps the narrator was also paying respect of sorts to the death of "tradition" in the town by going to Miss Emily's funeral and then to her house.

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Is the narrator of "A Rose for Emily" sympathetic to Emily?

In A Rose For Emily, the narrator is unnamed; he is presumably a citizen of the town where Emily lived. In the story, the narrator refers to himself using collective pronouns. It is as if he becomes the voice of the citizens of Jefferson. He relates the story of Emily's life, her eccentricity, her reclusive ways, her subsequent descent into madness, and her dysfunctional relationship with her father. Although he attempts to appear dispassionate and detached from Emily's story, it is obvious that he eventually ends up feeling pretty sorry for Emily.

The narrator's use of collective pronouns in reference to himself highlights his identification with the townsfolk of Jefferson. He confesses that Emily was disliked for a time due to manifesting the high-minded and arrogant ways characteristic of a Grierson. Because of her position in Jefferson, Emily's behavior was just barely tolerated; indeed, humoring her became a burdensome accommodation.

Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town...

Due to her pride against accepting charity after her father's death, Colonel Sartoris coins a story about her father's past largess to the town of Jefferson in order to spare Emily from having to pay taxes on her expensive property.

The narrator confesses that people didn't really start to feel sorry or sympathetic toward Emily until after her father passed away. This is because her Grierson hubris tended to alienate people; both the narrator and the people of Jefferson report feeling 'vindicated' when Emily is still single at thirty years old. After all, 'even with insanity in the family she wouldn't have turned down all of her chances if they had really materialized.' However, with her father's death, Emily's circumstances are reduced and she becomes humanized in the narrator's and townspeople's eyes.

Her further bizarre and eccentric denial of her father's death also causes the narrator to sympathize with Emily's lot in life. He reasons that she has to cling to an idealized image of her deceased father so as to mask the reality of her  miserable years under his tyrannical authority. It is all she has, a reconstructed fantasy in place of a very painful reality.

We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which robbed her, as people will.

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Who is the narrator of "A Rose for Emily"? What is their gender and feelings towards Emily?

I've always felt that the narrator is male.  The voice simply isn't one of a woman.  Women are much more detail-oriented and less objective about things of this nature, in my opinion, and there would've been much more "gossip" about Emily and what the townspeople said, for example. 

The narrator is very objective and doesn't show bias, actually.  There is no judgment of her.  If anything, the narrator seems to exhibit a bit of sympathy for her, in my opinion.

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Who is the narrator of "A Rose for Emily"? What is their gender and feelings towards Emily?

This is a good question for the discussion boards.

When I read the story, I "hear" a male voice telling it. I think a female narrator, given the gossipy nature of the ladies of the town, might have been more disapproving of Miss Emily's ways. The narrator seems to think of her as a source of amusement, as the town eccentric, instead of a stubborn old woman who should know better. A female narrator might not have been so brutal in describing her physical appearance.

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