Faulkner’s Narrative Complexity in “a Rose for Emily”

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The Art of Literature

Faulkner’s Narrative Complexity in “A Rose for Emily”
“A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner divulges the reader into a story of tragedy brought on by a prideful southern society whose ability to cope with their new lifestyle is restricted. Faulkner carefully crafts his piece with meaning that begs the reader to dig deeper and unveil the message concealed between the lines. His main focal point is the protagonist Emily Grierson, who is implied to be a mysterious individual. Her story along with the townspeople’s is told from an unnamed, genderless narrator. The narrator’s voice shifts back and forth from the collective view of the townspeople to that of an individual person. Faulkner’s nonlinear style of narration provides additional evidence towards the overall theme of misguided morals ending in tragedy with its synthetic translocation in history. The unconventional method of storytelling found in “A Rose for Emily” is not only unique within the history of all literature, but it also constructs the reader’s mindset into one congruous with an analytical historian. Faulkner’s deliberate juxtaposition of the scenes within “A Rose for Emily” is done to ensure his reader will be persuaded to see the South’s historical transition the way he did. Faulkner lays out a complex map to follow, which leads his reader along a journey through the ideologies of the Pre and Post Civil War generations and sends an overwhelming message that the new South was not developing easily.

Before understanding how Faulkner’s overall intention is related to his choice in narration, one must first understand where his message is coming from within the narration. “A Rose for Emily” begins with Emily’s funeral and ends just after her funeral. The story leaves the reader where he or she started, but provides additional backdrop from a series of flashbacks that do not consistently move in time. Emily’s death represents her life at an end and the story being frozen at that moment exemplifies how realities time is frozen in this setting. In the article “In Search of Dead Time” written by Paul Harris, he believes Faulkner’s choice is not related to the South’s attested tussle with change, however he is in agreement with the story having a time stoppage when he says, “The holistic effect of the discourse – in both its rearrangement of events and manner of marking them – is to render the story a sequence of discrete episodes that do not constitute a coherent series, as if they were left unmoored, afloat in time”(Harris, 173). With this said, Faulkner has chosen the period of time where the South was beginning to cope with the realization that their previous lifestyle had been evil. Faulkner reveals how the Old South’s lifestyle is damaging and does so perfectly when he blends the before and after Civil War eras into one time frame.

The Old South was a corrupt society. African Americans were owned and treated like dogs. In fact one third of all white families owned slaves. Even whites were discriminated against, specifically women. The common southern belle stereotype is far from true. These women had more kids, married younger, had a shorter education, and were more likely to die young than the women in the North. They also lived isolated not only because they had less access to other women, but also because husbands and fathers generally controlled them.

Faulkner takes his character Emily Grierson and presents her as overly sheltered in one timespan. He develops a backdrop of how Miss Emily’s misguided upbringing is the kind that leads to harsh conclusions, especially if those around are dealing with their own struggles in this developing time. Emily’s life along with the townspeople’s is showcased through a series of flashbacks and flash-forwards within the flashbacks. Emily is portrayed from the opinions of the townspeople and it is made clear that a one-dimensional father, who is very selfish and controlling, raised her...
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