In-depth analysis of some of the most popular short stories including summaries, character analysis, narrative technique, symbolism and much more.




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The unnamednarrator in William Faulkner’s “A Rose For Emily” is a resident of the town inwhich the main character Emily lives. Although the true identity of thenarrator is never revealed, the reader is left with some clues. Helen Nebekernotes that narrator may have been a part of a group of men in town who hadhoped to become the ideal mate for Emily, but who never lived up to herfather’s standards (5). The narrator does show himself to be male based on hisattempt to not attach himself to the ladies in his town. The narrator inSection II of the story refers to the women as “the ladies”, and is careful toensure that at no time he establishes any attachment to the women beyond merelybeing neighbors. Also when discussing the lie that Colonel Sartoris had come upwith to excuse Emily’s from paying taxes, the narrator states that it’sa lie and only a woman would accept that excuse. The narrator’s transition from anon-participant to a participant narrator may also provide a clue as to thenarrator’s identity. Helen Nebeker observes, “Within all five sections wenote a continual shifting of person, from our to they to we… Miss Emily” (4).The constant switch between first person and third person narrative, isindicative of someone who may not have seen firsthand all the events of theplot. In Section I, the narrator consistently uses the word “they” in referenceto the meeting between Emily and the town’s officials. The narrator, however,switches to a participant and begins using the first person narrative as Emilyages. This transition is evidence that the narrator may have been younger thanEmily, and may have been given background information on the main character dueto his association with the town’s officials. It is also possible that thenarrator is actually a town official, the narrator hints at his association inSection IV, “Each December we sent her a tax notice.”

Significance of the Narrative Voice


Whoever thenarrator is, he is central to the stories progression and to the suspense. Thenarrator’s experience is central to understanding Emily, and it is actually theonly way the reader is able to build an understanding of who Emily is. It isoften asked why did William Faulkner allow the story to be told from the pointof view of the anonymous narrator than from Emily? The story is best told fromhis point of view as opposed to the main character because his lack ofknowledge is crucial to the development of the plot. The narrator’s failure torealize that Emily had intended to kill "rats" (This is an instance of foreshadowing used by William Faulkner), instead ofcommitting suicide, allows the suspense of the story to be preserved, andtherefore hold the reader’s interest in the plot. The reader would have beenrobbed of the drama, and intense shock surrounding the discovery of the body inher room, the room being embalmed with her memories, and her symbolic “irongray hair”. These are events in the plot which could not have been told byEmily due to her mental state. Emily would have been easily classified as anunreliable narrator, and therefore her retelling of events would not have been valid. It was essential that both the narrator and reader make thediscovery of a dead Homer Barron at the same time, because it shows that as much as the narrator andpeople of the town had scrutinized Emily, no one knew who Emily Grierson trulywas.


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Nebeker, Helen E. “Emily’s Rose of Love: ThematicImplications of Point of View in Faulkner’s