Emily, which is eccentric. It appears that the narrator is on the outside looking in, and giving his or her version of the life and events leading to the death of Emily.
The more recently flourishing discussion of the narration has centered on the narrative voice, whether it is distinct from or coincident with the voice or voices of the town.
Those readers who have made strong arguments for a distinct persona have differed widely in characterizing it.
Nicklaus Happel, for example, believes that the narrator is somewhat aloof from the town and that, in the course of his narrative, he shows sympathy for Emily to atone for past neglect.
On this question, also, there is little agreement. Is Emily a black widow who devours her unsuspecting lover? A desperate and slightly crazed spinster who kills to possess him?
Denied natural outlets for her emotions, perhaps she is forced into madness or a fantasy world? Is she a victim, then, of time, the town, her father, or her own repressed sexuality? Others suggest that our feelings should be mixed.
Such varied disagreement about our basic responses to the story may indicate that it, like "The Turn of the Screw," simply does not seem to allow us to reach a single definitive understanding. On the other hand, it may be that we have been asking the wrong questions or asking our questions in the wrong way.
Let us then attempt to look at "A Rose for Emily" from a slightly different point of view, keeping in mind the major questions that have puzzled other critics, but also trying to find new or, at least, untried questions that might help to increase our understanding and appreciation.
Beginning with section one, let us look closely at the text and our responses to it. The first sentence introduces the antagonists: When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: Such a construction used by an artist who compared the short story to the lyric poem in its demands for exactness and economy, should lead us to suspect that the town may require as much of our attention as Emily.
The town comes to her funeral, not in grief to mourn the passing of a beloved member of the community, but out of curiosity and respect for a defunct institution.
In the first sentence, we are already disposed to side with Emily as a victim for there is no evidence that she is regarded with deserved hate or disgust.
On the contrary, she seems to have been a pillar of the community. Although the second paragraph seems to move our attention from Emily and the town to her house -- a house such as we often see in Gothic Romances -- we are shown a similar set of antagonists. The house appears to be the victim of the town, too.
Having been surrounded by commercial interests, it is "stubborn and coquettish" in its decay. The last sentence of the paragraph suggests that Emily's removal to the cemetery is parallel to the house's removal from selectness.
The house stands in a neighborhood of obliterated august names as her grave is among "the ranked and anonymous" graves of Civil War soldiers.
The parallel works in reverse also, suggesting that the house is a kind of tomb. In each case, Emily and her house are not the agents but the victims. Of what are they the victims?
The house seems clearly to be decaying, a victim of time, yet it may not necessarily be a natural process that changes the most select street to a commercial area. As Emily's house is invaded by the townspeople in the first paragraph, so her neighborhood is invaded by commercial interests rather than preserved for the value it may once have had.
It is suggested, then, that the men's "respectful affection" is a hollow emotion, hollow as would be the suggestion that her house is still standing because of the town's sentimental nostalgia. There is also in this second paragraph a curious statement, the judgment that the house is "an eyesore among eyesores.
It is significant because it alerts us that we are perceiving through a consciousness that not only sees and generalizes, but also judges. Before we have seen an actual incident, we have a sense of antagonistic forces and a judging narrative consciousness.
The remainder of the first section presents a brief history of Emily's taxes, beginning with their remission by Colonel Sartoris: Colonel Sartoris, the mayor -- he who fathered the edict that no Negro woman should appear on the streets without an apron -- remitted her taxes.
Emily, as impoverished aristocracy, is somewhat like the former slaves; she becomes a duty, obligation, and care.An analysis of the setting of “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner’s William Faulkner is one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.
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A Rose For Emily and Other Short Stories of William Faulkner study guide contains a biography of William Faulkner, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis of each his short stories, including a Barn Burning summary.
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