“A Rose for Emily” discussion

In “A Rose for Emily”:

How do we know what we know?

Why are we told what we’re told?

Who is the narrator? 1st person, “our”–a collective of the townspeople

Focalization: who is the focalizer: whose focus do we see? this is the point-of-view character

different kinds of first-person narrators: homodiegetic (first-person character narrator) and autodiegetic (first-person protagonist narrator)

do we know more than the narrator? is that possible?

When/where does Emily exercise her power?

What do we find at the end of the story?


2 thoughts on ““A Rose for Emily” discussion

  1. Duane

    How do we know what we know?

    I think we know what we know about what is going on in the story comes from the narration of the story. If the narration is in first person or third person omniscient, we know what we know from what the narrator is telling us because, as the reader, we are being fed the information that we need to know for the character(s), feelings, thoughts, etc. But on the other hand, if the narration is in first person or third person limited then what we know is probably most likely based off of what we have experienced and by experienced I mean heard, seen, smelled, touched, and/or lived. We then use our experiences to question the character(s) behavior/state to try to get a sense of reason. Then use the possibilities that we came up with to define the character from our perspective. This causes us to have some differences in perspectives on a character or characters.

  2. Jody R. Rosen Post author

    Duane’s point here is really important for us to consider. To what extent does our lived experience factor into our understanding of what we read? If we say it has a significant impact, then what do we do about the fact that we all bring different experiences to the text? We all necessarily read it differently. Is it important for us to agree? to see each other’s ways of reading? This is at the heart of our semester-long discussion of fiction. Thanks for bringing this topic to the surface, Duane!

    For example, if you have very strict parents who don’t let you date, or you come from a culture where that is not customary, how does that affect your experience reading about Emily compared to someone who didn’t have these restrictions?

    Is this just about being able to sympathize with characters? I would argue no, it’s also about our ability to decipher details. It goes back to “A Jury of Her Peers”–the two women have different lived experiences than the men, and that gives them a different understanding of the details they see.

    Some helpful vocabulary for us to consider: the narrator tells the story to a narratee. That’s either an actual character listening to the story if the story is set up that way. Or it’s someone imagined, someone whom we understand to be created by the narrative as the receiver of the story. This can be the implied reader, or the ideal reader. The implied reader is the one that the narrative anticipates. The ideal reader gets everything. These are often not the same. If a narrator tells us that Emily wanted arsenic by saying “She asked for arsenic, a highly toxic chemical,” the implied reader doesn’t know what arsenic is. Sometimes we can understand things about the narrator by interpreting how the implied reader is constructed.


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