In “A Rose for Emily,” the effect of William Faulkner’s use of the first person plural “we” is unique because it provides the opportunity to still feel the effect of a first-person narrative while keeping the protagonist at a mysterious distance. This is because it allows multiple first-person witnessing the events, thus allowing even differing viewpoints. Since the story begins in the end, readers are given the knowledge of what will eventually happen. Yet, it leaves them clueless as to the specific events that lead to that end. After the narration of Emily’s death, the narrator then takes the readers to Emily’s house, providing the readers with an initial reflection of the dweller. The house is described as upholding “its stubborn and coquettish decay” amidst the modernization of everything around it a characteristic that is very much like its owner, Emily (Faulkner 666). It is furthered described as “an eyesore among eyesores” (Faulkner 666).
The first-person plural “we” also makes one feel that the whole town is gossiping about the affairs of Emily. The fact that her life the center of speculation among the townsfolk, and her early retirement and old-fashioned ways are placed under continuous observation serve as telling indications. It makes one feel how Emily is isolated from the rest of her immediate society. However, despite the isolation, everyone seems to know even her intimate affairs especially when the narrator mentions Emily’s love interest, “the one we believed would marry her” (Faulkner 667).
Another effect of the first-person use is the reader’s obliviousness of some weird details of Emily’s life. For example, Emily is found in a downstairs room and the town ladies arrived with “hushed, sibilant voices and their quick, curious glances” (Faulkner 672). All they feel is curiosity, and they are even clueless about the disappearance of the manservant from the house. This same unawareness is passed on to the readers, because since the narrator is the “town,” the readers only know what the town observes. Additionally, since the narrator is the town, thoughts, and opinions about Emily, which are supposedly private ideas of each individual, seem to turn into publicly known beliefs.
Irony: Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby.
This short story is filled with irony from beginning to end. As a brief overview, Colbys friends decide to hang him because he has gone too far. How Colby went too far is never discussed in the story. Instead, the story circles around Colbys friends discussion regarding his execution. One irony here is when Howard told Colby to “Be reasonable” (Barthelme para. 1) when Colby requests for Ives Fourth Symphony. In the first place, Howard should not expect Colby to be reasonable when the preparations being made are for the latter’s execution. Another example of irony here is when Colbys friends tell him that the drinks “expense didn’t matter, that we were after all his dear friends and if a group of his dear friends couldn’t get together and do the thing with a little bit of eclat, why, what was the world coming to?” (Barthelme para. 2). How can a person consider someone, who plans for his death, a friend?
Barthelme, Donald. Some of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby. London: Penguin, 2011. Print.
Faulkner, William. A Rose for Emily. Logan, Iowa: Perfection Learning Corp, 1990. Print.