William Faulkner's A Rose for Emily
In William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”, the narrative voice is a detached witness to the events in Miss Emily’s life. This is portrayed through its limited omniscience, its shifting viewpoint and its unreliability.
The narrators’ limited omniscience is seen through their inability to see into the depths of Miss Emily and her personal life; to see her thoughts, feelings and motives. No one knows the reason that she cut her hair, all that happened between her and Homer, and why she locked herself in her house for such a long time. The narrators also shows limited omniscience because the crucial events and people in Miss Emily’s life are unknown, like Homer, her manservant, her father’s death, and even her own sickness and death. After she is found to be dead, the narrators admit “We did not even know she was sick; we had long given up trying to get any information from the Negro. He had talked to no one probably not even to her…(Faulkner 78).”
Yet, though the voice is limited, it does have an omniscient quality to it. Although the narrators didn’t know that Miss Emily had been sick, they describe the detailed setting of her death; “She died in one of the downstairs rooms, in a heavy walnut bed with a curtain, her gray head propped up on a pillow yellow and moldy with age and lack of sunlight (78).” The narrators are also not bound by time or place; they follow Emily throughout her life and know of conversations and events, even those which they were obviously not present. This is shown through the history lessons of the town throughout generations and the detailed conversations between: the townspeople and the Judge (75), Emily and the pharmacist (77) and many more.
The unreliability of the narrators is seen throughout this short story because they obviously have no personal relationship with Emily or anyone crucial in Emily’s life. They take on an outsider’s perspective and can mislead the audience at...