Traditional Ideals In William Faulkner's A Rose For Emily

1907 Words 8 Pages
William Faulkner constructs “A Rose for Emily” in a manner that follows the traditional ideals and behavior of the small-town American South and formally imitates the back and forth way one tells a story. The first section of the short story begins toward the chronological end of the story, as it starts with Miss Emily’s death and then works its way backward in a way that mimics the thought processes of the townsfolk. The first sentence includes the pronoun “our,” which indicates that the narrator is first-person (sec. 1, para. 1). However, the remainder of the section and the story as a whole behaves more as a third-person narrative, excepting the occasional use of “we” or “our.” This leads one to recognize the narrator not as one person …show more content…
The town’s “good Southern values” are clear in that they “waited until Miss Emily was decently in the ground before they opened [the door above the stairs]” (sec. 5, para. 3). This sentence lightly satirizes the traditional tendency to put social expectations above practicality and reason. Miss Emily obviously does not care whether or not they wait until she has been buried to open the door, since she is dead, nor are there any family members (aside from the two cousins, whose opinion clearly does not matter to the town anyway) to rebuke the townspeople for being improper. Therefore, the only barrier is social norms to protect the honor of someone the town never much cared for in the first place. Because of the absurdity of the town’s reasoning, Faulkner’s satire shines through in stating the values of the town here. Furthermore, there is an unusual shift from the narrator’s traditional “we” to a usage of “they,” which goes against the previous notion of narrative unity throughout the town. However, the unspecific nature of the “they” makes it difficult to tell who has been excluded from the narration and who has been included. In this same line of thought, the narrator quickly returns to the previous system of not making distinctions between any of the townsfolk and the teller of the story, as the story mentions how “one of us lifted something from it, and leaning forward, that faint and invisible dust dry and acrid in the nostrils, we saw a long strand of iron-gray hair” (sec. 5, para. 7). The resurgence of the indiscriminate nature of the narrator revises the use of “they” and lends the story a sense of credibility; if the townspeople were there and saw it with their own eyes, then it must be true. More importantly, the abrupt ending of the story leaves the reader with an intense feeling of shock at this revelation that Miss Emily, an apparently harmless, if bothersome

Related Documents