Sunday, September 21, 2008

Point of View: A Rose for Emily

In William Faulkner’s short story “A Rose for Emily” the reader is presented with the narrative of an old lady who is rejected by society. The reader is introduced to Miss Emily Grierson by an onlooker, someone who is not Miss Emily, but part of the town that rejects her. The narrator has a partly omniscient point of view, knowing more than the average town’s person, but not everything there is to know about Miss Emily. The narrator is present for all of the scenes, but never plays a major role which would have him speak or do anything significant. William Faulkner deliberately writes the story in this fashion to show exactly how secluded and isolated Miss Emily is in relation to the rest of the town, and moreover to show society’s and one’s reluctance to change.

Throughout his story, Faulkner establishes that his character is part of the town. In the first sentence of the story the narrator says “our town,” showing that he is in fact part of the town. The narrator is never explicitly pointed out, however one can make assumptions of his age and other things through the clues Faulkner left for the reader to find. The narrator switches between using “our,” “I,” and “we,” to “they” and “their.” This is exemplified in statements like, “at first we were glad,” and “they just said”. Although, the narrator does make it a point to separate himself from the younger crowd with statements, one of the most blunt being “when the next generation, with its more modern ideas.” In saying the next generation, the narrator is saying that he is part of an older generation with seemingly obsolete ideas.

The narrator being older was not a mistake, and had a clear purpose, because the narrator was older her knew more, and allowed the reader to experience first hand what happened in the past through flash backs. The information that is given to us through the narrator is a major part of the plot, and understanding how the town and its people look and perceive Miss Emily. Through the years the town from looking at Miss Emily as a “monument” to thinking of her as a “fallen monument,” of course the narrator’s town saw Miss Emily as the monument that has fallen for the new generation’s town. The entire town would gossip about her, being happy for her when she would find someone and feeling sorry for when she was left alone. The town almost pitied Miss Brill.

Miss Emily isolation from the town is partly her own fault. This is another benefit of having an older member as a narrator; we can compare him to Miss Emily. The narrator in the story is still part of the town, saying “we” and “our.” So why not Miss Emily? From the very beginning, the narrator shows his submission to the new generation and its new ideas. Miss Emily however does not. The end of part one the narrator goes over an argument between Miss Emily and the town sheriff showing her stubbornness, and unwillingness to change. Things like that just alienate Miss Emily more from the town, and enable them from pitying her and looking at her as a “fallen monument.”

The choice of narrator is probably best left as someone who is not the main character for drama’s sake. The story is told after the death of Miss Emily and involves something of a mystery, with the ending leaving the reader to decide the sanity of Miss Emily and death of a man found in her attic. Had this been seen through the thoughts of Miss Emily, the reader would know everything, and the mysterious aspect of the story would be absent. The narrator we are provide with has a point of view that gives us a neutral view and allows the reader to enjoy the plot, and gives us a thrill from the lack of certain information.

Faulkner wrote Miss Emily with the purpose of showing the tendencies of humans to not like change, and mocking or pitying those who are unwilling to change. “A Rose for Emily,” is a perfect example of such a point. Faulkner gives us Miss Emily, a person who did not want to change, and got so disconnected from the world that everyone around her looked at her as an ornament, just something to look at and talk about. This is a great story of society for one. This is a reality, and Faulkner makes it clear.

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