Miss Emily Grierson, a woman whose family was upper class, passed away. While alive, her interactions with the community were the source of much community conversation. These conversations, described in detail in William Faulkner’s, A Rose for Emily, provide the reader with an understanding of the past and present social interactions of the townspeople. The stories presented occur in a variety of locations and involve a variety of people. The vast variety of these settings and characters makes it impossible for A Rose for Emily to be told by a single individual. The combination of the townspeople’s memories of their interactions with Miss Emily forms the story.
The degree of detail provided when events are described in this short story is astounding. Every event surrounding Miss Emily has painted so clearly that the reader feels like they were there. For example, the “four men crossed Miss Emily’s lawn and slunk about the house like burglars”, in an attempt to find the source of “the smell” that had developed since her father’s death gives the reader a visual description of the men moving silently and cautiously around Miss Emily’s estate. It also gives a hint as to the important requirement for stealth in this situation: the town’s Board of Aldermen had no desire to offend Miss Emily, so rather than telling her that her property was the source of an unpleasant odour, they took it upon themselves to remove the smell.
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Only an individual present throughout this expedition would have been able to provide the degree of detail this event was presented with. Another example of the detailed nature of this story is the almost omniscient level of knowledge surrounding Miss Emily’s status with regards to paying taxes. The narrator knows this area of Miss Emily’s interaction with the town starting in 1894 when “Colonel Sartor is… remitted [Miss Emily’s] taxes, the dispensation dating from the death of her father on into perpetuity,” and finishing with her death some fifty to seventy years later. The reasoning behind Colon Sartor’s actions, the different types of letters and requests sent by the town government, the unsuccessful attempt by the city officials to communicate the need for Miss Emily to pay taxes in person, and the repetitive, almost predictable, system of sending Miss Emily an annual tax form and receiving it a week later with no response shows an in-depth, continued knowledge of the events surrounding this particular area of Miss Emily’s interactions.
Only a government official or have someone who could access the government documents would have been able to provide the detail that was given. The events in “A Rose for Emily” are spread out over a large time period. There are some events that have as many as thirty years between them. The narrator describes the first event with as much detail and involvement as the last event. The townspeople notice different events around them depending on their personal experiences and where or what they are doing when the events occur: a neighbour of Miss Emily would have been more likely to notice that “the Negro man went in and out with the market basket, but the front door remained closed,” than an individual who lived across town and the older generation would be more likely to “[think] of [Miss Emily and her father] as a tableau: Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground,” than someone who had could not remember Mr Grierson.
Depending on a citizen’s age and location, their memories of Miss Emily would be different. The time period over which the story is told is so vast that it is nearly impossible for an individual to provide all of the events that are described in the story. For an individual to have the mental capacity to remember the specific details of each event that happened in the story they would need to not only have a very good memory, but they would have to be of a fairly mature age. The individual would have needed to be old enough to personally remember the events including the Colonel Sartor tax issue, the “relationship” between Homer Barron, her China painting lessons, and her death and the specifics of each of these events. These events span a total of no less than fifty years and are presented with such detail that it is highly unlikely that it is told by one person.
Another reason it is unlikely that the story is told by only one person is that the events happen in a large variety of locations, at a variety of different times of day, and many of the events occur when only one or two people are present. The chances of an individual being present at all of the events are unlikely. With the variety of individuals that are involved in the interactions with Miss Emily and the variety of times that the interactions occurred, it is more likely to have been a collection of individual’s experiences that tells the story. The experiences with Miss Emily are presented in such a manner that even though they are not presented in chronological order, there is a logical flow from one event to another. This is caused by the inclusion of the emotional reactions to Miss Emily that the citizens of the town had.
As an event causes an emotional reaction or a conversation, this leads to the remembering of another event that occurred that would, under other circumstances, have seemed unlinked and irrelevant. The presentation of the story is such that the reader could almost imagine a group of citizens sitting for coffee discussing their memories of Miss Emily after finding the corpse in her bed. It seems reminiscent and remembering in style. The stories help the reader walk down the “memory lane” of the town and see Miss Emily as they saw her: a strange, lonely, isolated, proud individual who had little happiness in her life and was a constant mystery that could not be solved. No one could explain or understand Miss Emily’s choice to remain isolated for the many years after her father’s death.
No one could understand why she would not accept guests into her house or why she never invited the community into her life. She was a puzzle until the day she died. The mystery that was Emily Grierson existed and puzzled many of the citizen’s of her town. Her cold, dark nature and her unwelcoming attitude upon having visitors made her the focus of many conversations from the point her father died until she passed away herself. There were constant rumours and speculations being circulated and these concepts were the topics of the conversations. These conversations were combined to form A Rose for Emily. The length of time over which the events described occur and the detail used in describing these events make it impossible for one individual to be the narrator. The story is a combination of memories of the communal experiences with Emily.