Dec 01 2010

Study Skills WS2010_4

Published by Peter Schneck

William Faulkner 1954 Photograph by Carl van Vechten

William Faulkner in 1954. Photograph by Carl van Vechten

Here is your new set of questions for working on “A Rose for Emily”:

Read the story closely at least once (better twice!), paying special attention to the handling of time and the unfolding of action and events. Take notes of anything you find particular in regard to these aspects.

Then try to find answers to the following questions:

  • What is the chain of events in Faulkner’s story and how are these arranged?
  • From what point in time is the story narrated and what is the relation of that point in time to the events related in the course of the story? Do you notice anything remarkable in the span of time covered?
  • How does the handling of time affect the reading of the story?
  • What kind of narrative perspective do we encounter in the story, and what effects does it have?
  • How is the narrative perspective related to the handling of time?

Take notes on these issues and try to edit them to turn them into one cohesive commentary on the text – which you them may enter in the comment box below.

Good luck!

11 responses so far

11 Responses to “Study Skills WS2010_4”

  1. Imke Trauernichton 01 Dec 2010 at 20:27

    Here are my ideas and thoughts about the short story „A Rose for Emily“ by William Faulkner.
    The story is told from a third- person narrator´s point of view. Most of the time the narrator refers to himself as “we” (p. 35 “the one we believed would marry her”) but also uses different pronouns like they, our and us.
    The narrator has a character perspective and a limited point of view. He or she knows exactly as much as the citizens of the town of Jefferson and therefore her or she is unreliable and we don´t know if we are able to trust him/her.
    The people living there are gossiping a lot and especially the elderly sometimes confuse things. The narrator states this nicely on page 40 where it says that the older people “confuse time with its mathematical progression”.
    Something that would underline this statement is the fact that the story is told over several years and we don´t know whether some given facts or details might be forgotten over time. This aspect doesn´t make the narrator very trustworthy. In fact, the story is told from two different generation´s point of view regarding Colonel Sartoris and the following generation of mayor´s in the town.

    That leads me to the next point which is the aspect of time handled in the story. After reading it once, I was a little bit confused and I had to read it again in order to get all the events in the right order.
    The beginning of the story is also the end, namely the death of Emily Grierson. From that point on we have a lot of flashbacks and shifts in time (analepsis).
    Like for example when it says on page 33 how the new generation of politicians try to get Emily to pay her taxes and then the narrator tells us something about Emily giving china-painting lessons nearly one decade ago.
    Another, very vivid example is the one on page 35: “…just as she had vanquished their fathers thirty years before about the smell. That was two years after her father´s death and a short time after her sweetheart (…) had deserted her”.
    The narrator metions three different dates.
    That makes it very complex and we are not able to understand these circumstances until we finished the story. Until now we have no idea who her “sweetheart” might be.
    This way of how time is handled makes it hard for the reader to understand; it is not very transparent and rather complex.
    Almost nothing in this short story happens in a chronological order.

  2. Wilma Sanderon 02 Dec 2010 at 17:15

    The short story „A Rose for Emily“ is about a woman who died and her life regarded by flashbacks.
    The story is told from a first persons narrator’s point of view but one does not get to know who the narrator is. He or she tells the story out of a certain distance and is not part of the story himself. So he/she is a narrating I that is not involved in the story but only tells about Emily Grierson’s life from his point of view. As one can already see in the first sentence, the narrator identifies himself with some people of the town he/she lives in, because he/she only uses pronouns like “our” (cf. l. 1) or “we” (cf. l. 322). But in the end the pronouns turn from “we” (l. 322) to “they” (l. 324), which indicates a turning point of the story. The narrator does not identify himself with the community anymore, maybe because they seem to disregard Emily Grierson’s privacy by breaking into a locked room after her funeral. The narrator respects Emily as a lady as one can see through the way he/she talks about her as “Miss Emily” (cf. l. 1). By doing so, the reader gets the impression that the protagonist Emily Grierson is a very devout lady but as the story develops the view on her changes. At the beginning Miss Emily seems to be a stubborn, stingy woman (cf. ll. 75 – 80) but in chapter two, the reader feels pity for her because her father died and she seems to be left by her “sweetheart” (cf. ll. 85 – 87). The pity seems to rise throughout the story since the reader gets to know that there is a lot of gossip about Miss Emily and that nobody even thinks of talk to her or ask her if she needs any help or support (cf. ll. 183 – 186). The whole town feels sympathy for her but all the people do is talking to her Afro-American servant and asking him for information (cf. l. 299).

    The time that is used in the story is very special. The narrator starts the short story with Miss Emily’s funeral and tells her life by using lots of flashbacks. As Imke already said, there does not seem to be any chronology in the story which might show that Miss Emily’s life had never changed. She was always a lonely person looking for love. Her father was her only friend because he did not let her have any boyfriends when she was a young girl (cf ll. 152 – 153). The whole town thought of her as an arrogant woman during her whole life and so never talked to her. When Miss Emily then seemed to be in love with a northern laborer, the town salves its conscience by pretending to feel glad for her (cf. l. 244).

    So the effect of this special use of time to the reader is to look on Miss Emily as a person who died already. The reader sympathizes immediately with the old, dead woman and wants to know the reason for her death. Furthermore, this sort of telling a story creates a kind of suspense since the reader knows directly from the beginning that the situation cannot be changed anymore. The beginning of the story kind of shocks the reader because it starts with death, so one automatically goes on reading. I think Faulkner’s intention might have been to show the never ending gossip people do and what effect it might have on different people since Miss Emily dies lonely in the end, or even was lonely her entire life.

  3. Svenja Langkeiton 02 Dec 2010 at 17:16

    I would like to add some aspects to Imkes blog entry as I am not sure about the narrator’s perspective: In my opinion, he is not a third-person narrator as he is part of the village community. He doesn’t use the pronoun “I”, but underlines his belonging to the inhabitants by saying “we said…”, “we saw…” Due to a hint on page 39, I suppose that he belongs to the town administration (“Each December we sent her a tax notice…”)

    Maybe he can be described as a first-person narrator, more precisely as an “I-as-witness”, as he is not directly the experiencing I, but still part of the story, showing his point of view as well as that of the society. Sometimes, I got the impression that the narrator knows more than he actually could: How can he know that Emily died in one of the rooms downstairs, in a heavy walnut bed? Besides, he gives away lots of details about the past, e.g. when describing the special meeting of the Board of Aldermen who visited Emily at her house. How can the narrator know about the details of the conversation, and even describe her appearance in such a precise way if he was not present and if he is not omniscient? I hardly believe that this can be called a limited point of view. As you can probably see, I am a little confused about my own observations, don’t hesitate to correct me.

    The reader has no time to prepare for the death of the person who is mentioned in the title: He is directly put into the action by being told that Emily Grierson had died. As Imke correctly said, this beginning reveals the ending. This stylistic device creates suspense and curiosity: The reader asks himself who that woman might be and why the women in town are so curious to see her house from the inside. Why has no one seen it in at least ten years? So the reader goes on collecting information about Emily. Step by step, using foreshadowing and small hints, a picture of the woman is created. From the reader’s point of view she becomes more and more dubious until her craziness is revealed in the end.

  4. Christina Beifuson 03 Dec 2010 at 00:43

    Here are my thoughts and ideas:
    I agree with Svenja because the narrator knows very much about Miss Emily. But how does he know? Maybe he is an employee of the administration or he was a former servant of Miss Emily. This would explain why he knows that much about the incidents and the house.
    That’s why I am thinking he is omniscient. (like Svenja explained it)
    Maybe he is not involved in the actions of the characters but probably he experiences it in some ways. He tells the story in his own point of view, which is not unlimited. I would call him “observer”.
    The narrator confuses me, because I thought the narrator is a central character of the story, because he knows almost everything. He never appears and that makes me crazy.

    The story begins with at the end of Miss Emily’s life. (We talked about it in our lecture!) Accordingly the story has its own chronological order. It is unusual and you have to read the story twice in order to get the intention. But I think Faulkner places it appointed, because he wants to keep his story interesting. The reader wants to know why Miss Emily died and keeps on reading. But I think this was already said.

  5. Elisabeth Erwigon 03 Dec 2010 at 02:33

    I am going to work on the story “a rose for Emily” by Faulkner whereas I mainly want to concentrate on the aspect of time and the author’s attention.
    The story has a formal structure as beginning and end build a frame: The death of Emily Grieson and the evocated reactions of her fellow men. The beginning makes one wondering about Emily and her life because her death constitutes something like an attraction as men and women of her town are of “curiosity to see the inside of her house”. By this the reader’s attention is caught and you automatically continue reading the story. The middle part is made out of flashbacks and shifts in time (analepsis) that give an insight to (important) events of “at least ten years” of her life: Starting with the generation of Colonel Sartoris the narrator points out that the protagonist, Emily, has a headstrong character (“Not that Miss Emily would have accepted charity”) by using the example of remitted taxes. All in all the conflict of the taxes (does she have to pay or not?), the death of her father who was her own attachment figure and the love story with Homer Barron, a yankee(!), are the main discussed aspects. It is conspicuous that people comment on these private happenings (“we had said: she will marry him.”) and judge about her way of handling the situations. They mainly feel sorry for her and make her appear as a lonely woman although everyone does have problems in life.
    There is no chronological order in time which makes the story complex and hard to understand. It underlines the disorder of her life. The Negro however that goes in and out with the basket represents a component of constancy (“daily, monthly, yearly we watched the negro…”).
    The middle part doesn’t give a real answer to the question of Emily’s importance but another question: where is her love Homer Barron gone (“and that was the last time we saw Homer Barron”).
    Thus the end is on the one hand similar to the beginning as it reports the time after Emily’s dead and on the other hand it states the climax while telling that her love Homer Barron was found dead in her room. This fact shows their love to each other and that her life was as bad as the people thought it was.
    I agree with the girls that we do have a first-person narrator who identifies with the people of the town (“we”, “our”) and I just want to add a single fact: I think he and the people build together something like a unit in order to underline the loneliness of Emily.
    I guess Faulkner’s intention might have been to criticize the gossip of people and to show how superficial and insignificant it is!

  6. Julia Kochon 04 Dec 2010 at 17:58

    This is what I thought about the story after having read it. But actually I just want to add some points because a lot of questions have already been answered.

    When I read the short story for the first time I was very confused and unsure if I understood everything right. After reading it for the second time some parts were easier to understand for me.
    I agree with most of the girls, like Wilma and Svenja, that the story is beeing told by a first-person narrator. The narrator tells or describes the story from his own point of view by using the pronouns “we” or “us”. Though he also explains us the story in the way the society or the habitants of the town see or experience it. Actually the narrator has a limited point of view. Sometimes though he “jumps out” of that cage and tells us about things he actually cannot know about. In this point I agree with Svenja.

    When I read Svenja’s entry I starting thinking about the point that the narrator might be one of the town administrators. I think that is a good notice because this fact would explain some questions. Maybe that was the reason why the narrator felt so sorry for the old lady. He was not part of the society who only liked to talk about other people’s problems instead of thinking of their own problems. The only sense those habitants see in their lifes is to talk about other people and invent stories about them. In this case they made up a story about Emily Grierson and every strange sign that she gave was being put into a puzzle. In the end maybe this puzzle should show her arrogant and strange life.

    For me this story seemed to be like a crime on TV. It was like watching the “Tatort” on a sunday evening. First we get confronted with the death of the old lady. We don’t know anything about Emily Grierson or about any of the people that will be meantioned later in the story. Then there is the narrator who could be the inspector of the police trying to find the reasons for the death. He gives us hints and informations about the dead person and the people that were close to her or knew her (or in this case didn’t know her). The story gets more interesting by that I think. If the short story would have started at the beginning of the life of Emily Grierson it wouldn’t have been that interesting. Then it would have only been some kind of a biography which describes every step of her life. But know we are right into the story or maybe right at the end of the story and we want to get to know about that person who is dead and why everybody is so interested in her.

    The only thing I didn’t really understand in this story was this point: Why did the old lady only have contact with the negro and with no one else (except for Homer Barron)? Why was he so different from all the others? Because he was black? Because he didn’t have so many rights during that time? This is something where I lost the point. Maybe I still overread something.

    Now I want to add one last thing. As already said there is not a real chronological order in this short story. But I think that is a method to keep the story interesting and makes the reader want to know more about everything. I think there is a special reason for that why the narrator tells us the story this way.

    This story reminds me of the song from the German group “Die Ärzte”. They sang a song called “Lass die Leute reden…”. This is where I agree with Elisabeth’s last sentence, where she writes about the intention of Faulkner.

  7. Teresa Lorenzenon 05 Dec 2010 at 12:20

    In this blog I would like to add or explicate some points concerning the entries that have already been written.
    As most of the others have already said, the short story “A rose for Emily” by William Faulkner is not written in a chronological order, but the happenings in the different layers of time are mixed up.
    I would describe the whole story as a kind of “puzzle” or “riddle”, because the reader gets to know more and more about the woman “Emily Grierson”, but the information comes to him in pieces. The reader knows already after the first paragraph that Emily Grierson is dead, but he does neither know why she died or at what age. The question of who the woman was appears, because it is said that “[the] whole town went to her funeral”, so probably everyone knew her.
    Furthermore, the whole story is not understandable until the reader reads the last paragraph and gets the last hint: that Homer Barron lies dead in Emily Griersons room and that she must have killed him (probably with the poison she bought the other day in the drugstore, compare l. 192 ff).
    Between the beginning and the ending of the story, the progress of Emily Grierson is delineated. There are a lot of ellipsis and leaps in time such as in l. 262: “[B]ut for almost six months she did not appear on the streets.”which underline the progress and the course of time. This is also shown in expressions or enumerations like “[d]aily, monthly, yearly” (l. 287) or “[e]ach December” (l. 288).
    I have another response to the questions that Julia brought up about the “Negro” and the absent contact of Emily Grierson to other people. I have the impression that the death of the woman’s father kind of messed her up and that this was when she began to lock herself up in her house more and more. In line 144-146 you can see that she could not believe that her father was dead in the beginning: “Miss Emily met them at the door, dressed as usual and with no trace of grief on her face. She told them that her father was not dead.” and that she had a very particular way of dealing with her father’s death.
    I think that this is why she did not have any contact to other people afterwards, because she was influenced a lot by her father (line 130: “We had long thought of them as a tableau, Miss Emily a slender figure […] in the background, her father […] in the foreground” and after his death she was maybe unsure or troubled.
    Possibly, the “Negro” can be seen as someone who is always there during her progress, something “solid” in the course of time or perhaps even her link to the outside world.

  8. Marina Vehron 06 Dec 2010 at 19:17

    The story „A rose for Emily“ by Faulkner starts with a flashback to Miss Emily Grierson´s funeral. It continues with telling about her qualities and her behaviour as an alive person with a deeper flashback into the past. It is told that she did not want to pay any taxes, because of her aristocratic status in society, although workers from the council tried to get her paying them in different ways. Furthermore her loneliness and insanity (people thought she was insane but it was not affirmed) after her father´s death is described. Just a coloured servant entered her house daily. Another event in her life was the meeting with the construction worker Homer Barron and people thought about a love affair between them. The end continues with Miss Emily´s funeral when curious people entered her house and a locked room and saw a decayed corpse lying in a bed Miss Emily has watched over for a long time.
    The time in the story is summarized, because when the narrator tells about Miss Emily´s way of life, he/she leaves out some facts in time that could not be important for the plot from the narrator´s point of view (“That was over a year when…” line 194-195) .
    Furthermore there are some prolepses in the story to underline narrating about past events that the outcome already happened and can be anticipated (“Up to the day of her death at seventy-four it was still that vigorous iron-gray, like the hair of an active men.” Line 269-270).
    Sometimes the discourse time is as long as the story time, when dialogues are used (for example when she is buying some poison; line 202-218), but they are often interrupted by some comments of the narrator.
    The way time is used prepares the effect of telling a life-story without using any comments, but by pointing out important facts for the understanding of Miss Emily´s way of living.
    A part of the ending of the story (her death) is anticipates by the beginning, when the narrator already talks about Miss Emily´s funeral. But this anticipation does not abolish suspense, but makes the reader interested in her mysterious life, because “our whole town went to her funeral” ( line1-2) and people came for “curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old man-servant” (line 4-5). These aspects point out that there is something special about the woman and the reader wants to know it.
    The story is narrated by a figural narrator who is a member of the society, because he/she always includes herself to the society by talking in the first-person-plural “We” (“We were really glad” line 244-245) that is always observing every step Miss Emily takes. This narrative perspective gives the reader a very direct connection to the story because the narrator followed her life a long time and seems to know a lot about her and the way she is seen by other people.
    Additionally by using such a limited point-of-view the reader does not know everything about Miss Emily and he wants to know more about her and her isolated life . The neighbour´s gossip underscore the curiosity of the reader into the story and its ending.

  9. Louise Angrickon 12 Dec 2010 at 20:11

    The story “A Rose for Emily”, written by William Faulkner, starts with the information that Emily Rose died. It carries on with looking back into her life and ends with her cause of death and her funeral.
    It is told from a first-person narrator’s point of view. As said before, it seems as if the narrator had been attendant because he uses pronouns like “we”. But special about this narration is that he also seems kind of omniscient. There are conversations where the narrator cannot have been attendant (for example the part where Emily wants to buy poison from the drug store). On the other hand there are no stories from her privacy like how she was when she was at home. So although the narrator knows quite a lot about Emily she still seems very mysterious. But this could also just underline the life of small towns in the South. People always used to talk about their neighbours and so everybody knew if something bizarre had happened. But nobody knew exactly what was going on in these people’s minds.
    There are a lot of flashbacks in the story as the narrator remembers Emily’s life and why she became who she was before she died. But there are different kinds of flashbacks. Some events happened before some other events that have already been told. So there’s a kind of jumping back and forward in the past. But because there are only events from the past it becomes very interesting when the narrator reproduces conversations because it is nearly impossible to remember things in detail that have been said in the past.
    Altogether the handling of time and narration firstly seem very complex but then become very interesting. One actually has to think about what he has just read. So in my opinion the story really gets the reader.

  10. Julia Herberholdon 14 Dec 2010 at 11:03

    The shortstory „ A Rose for Emily“, written by William Faulkner, is divided into five sections, which are about Emily Grierson’s death and how the people think about her in Jefferson, the town she lived in. Nobody had entered her house for more than ten years.
    With the flashbacks, William Faulkner uses in the story, the life of Emily is told. He just picks out a few situations of her life, which are told from a person, who maybe works for the town. You, as the reader don´t get much information about the narrator himself. In my opinion he has an omniscient point of view in most cases. For example, in l.79 “’See Colonel Sartoris.’ (Colonel Sartoris had been dead almost ten years)”.That explains the situation better for the reader. I´m not sure whether you can believe the narrator or not. Because he himself doesn´t seem to know Emily very well. He always says “we”, “us”, etc. and never speaks about his relationship to her (if there was one).
    The people in Jefferson are gossiping. They don´t know what is going on in Miss Emily`s house, they just assume something about her and after a while everybody believes it. Faulkner describes Emily as a “monument”, but at the same time she is an outsider. People say, that it´s ok, if she dies, because she´s not going out and they think “’ she will kill herself’ and that it would be the best thing” (l. 220). Homer Barron is also a stranger and an outsider; he is a “Yankee”.
    When you look at the time of the story, how time is used, you can first mention that the story is full of flashbacks, which is a technical aspect. But there is also the time in the story. Emily is living in her own world, after her father died. In her own life, her own world, time stands still while life in Jefferson goes on. This is very clear, when the narrator speaks about modern ideas, the next generation had. The Mayor mailed her and asked her to answer or just call, but then “he received in reply a note on paper of an archaic shape…” (l.37). Emily stands as an emblem for Jefferson, but just for the “old town”, “and now Miss Emily had gone to join the representatives of those august names”(l.15), which means that she was one of the most important people of Jefferson.

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