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A fascinating technique used by William Faulkner in “A
Rose for Emily” was the use of an anonymous narrator whose role in the
town and connection to Emily is a bit unclear. Within the story, Faulkner doesn’t
rely on the standard linear approach when he acquaints his characters and their
ambitions. There is a strong theme of death, beginning and ending the story
with the death of Emily Grierson. The impact of this narrative, theme of time,
and the power of death will be scrutinized through close textual analysis.

            The reader
cannot help but notice the way in which the narrator uses the word
“we” to recount the feelings of the inhabitant of the town and their impression
of the strange Emily Grierson.  The
narrator fulfills the role as the town’s collective voice and there has been
much debate over whether it is a male or female—the boy who remembers Mr.
Grierson with his whip in the doorway chasing off potential suitors; the town
gossip, spearheading the effort to break down the door at the end; or perhaps
the servant, Tobe, who would have known her intimately including her deadly
secret. Several aspects of the story support the theory that Tobe is narrator
such as Emily being referred to as “Miss Emily” and the fact that a single
detail that described the deceased mayor, Colonel Sartoris: the mayor enforced
“the edict that no Negro woman should appear on the streets without an apron” (299).  Either way, the narrator conceals his
identity by using the pronoun “we” which can obscure the true thoughts of the
people of the town by exacting that everyone is thinking precisely the same way
the narrator is. The mystery is further intensified about who he is when
Homer’s body is discovered. When the narrator admits that “Already we knew”
(306) that a bedroom upstairs had been secured shut, we never find out how he
could even know about the room. This is about the point in the story where the
narrator switches from using “we” to using “they.” “Already we knew there was
one room…They waited until Miss Emily was decently in the ground before they
opened it” (306). Up until this point, the narrator has been affiliated with
the rest of the town, even agreeing with the community’s measures, thoughts,
and considerations. However, the narrator has removed himself from the action
of breaking into the room as if it was something he could not bring himself to
do. There is a subtle shift in wording back to using the collective word “we”
in the following text, but it helps give further evidence that the narrator was
a person who cared for Emily, despite her mental illness and horrible act of
killing her lover.

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            The story “A
Rose for Emily” does not follow the standard linear approach to the
introduction of the characters’ existence and drive. It is fractured, it shifts
and distorts time, extending the story over many decades. There are a series of
recollections that help the reader learn about Miss Emily. The story begins at
Emily’s funeral before the audience learns of the sealed door upstairs. Then we
see her as a young girl with her father, whip in hand, chasing off potential
sweethearts. Next, she is an old woman who has young girls over to her house
for a period of time to paint china. Finally, as her grip on reality weakens
over the years, she dies at the age of seventy-four. These flashbacks are rough
in form where in Parts I and II, we are thrown deep into Emily’s past, and
Parts III and IV where almost immediately we go from young Emily to her death.
We start the story at the end of Emily’s life, then we go backward into 1894 to
recount the fact that Colonel Sartoris has remitted her taxes. Then we are fast
forwarded to the new generation who is demanding that she pay her taxes and yet
again thrust back in time to the incident of the awful odor coming from her
house. The story being told in this manner makes the structure of the story

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