William Faulkner’s choice of a perspective as a faceless voice of the crowd serves as a viewpoint that is presented to the reader for a number of reasons. Due to the inconsistent timeline, the story shows reflections of the past from the present point of view. The following essay discusses the importance of questionable objectivity and an unorthodox choice of a narrator in the short story “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner.
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Faulkner’s approach allows a certain illusion of objectivity, despite having some criticism. While not truly objective, it allows the reader to generate his own opinion on the matter, and the conclusions are not written in stone. The narrator himself keeps a certain innocence to the very end, as Faulkner used such sentences as “we did not even know she was sick” (34) and “we believed she had to do that” (31).
The curiosity of the townsfolk is a major attribute in the story, and many sentences consist of observations, for example, “we sat back to watch developments” (Faulkner 33) and “that was the last we saw of Homer Barron” (Faulkner 33). This approach worked for a better dramatic effect when Emily’s horrible secret was revealed.
If the story was to be narrated from Emily’s point of view, it would be a completely different tale. The story would consist of a large portion of her inner monologue, as she isolated herself from any relationships with others, aside from her servant. It would be a story of misunderstood feelings, Emily’s growing paranoia and progressing mental illness. Most, if not all, interactions with the outside world would be laced with her inner fears, and her actions are to be seen as attempts to hide her morbid obsession.
This short, yet captivating story would be absolutely different if Faulkner would have chosen any other narrative perspective. The townspeople’s descriptions and observations play the most crucial part of the storytelling. In conclusion, the story probably would not get a proper ending if it was narrated by Emily, and her inner monologue would not create the same haunting atmosphere for the reader.
Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama, edited by X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia, 8th ed., Longman, 2002, pp. 28-35.