Study Guide

A Rose for Emily Tone

By William Faulkner

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Confessional, Gossipy

The narrator of "A Rose For Emily" is a stand-in for people of Jefferson, and the tone the narrator adopts reflects the two sides of the Jeffersonian nature. Remember, this is a community that both cares for and alienates Miss Emily—and the narration reflects that. At times, we're given a front row seat to the gossip-feat of small-town Southern life, and at times the narration suggests deep remorse.

The chilling first line of Section IV is a good representative of both of these characteristics at once:

So the next day we all said, 'She will kill herself'; and we said it would be the best thing. (4.1)

The fact that the community collectively decides that Miss Emily is going to commit suicide shows you just how rampant this gossip is—nothing is scared when it comes to dishing. But because the narrator not only admits to gossiping about Miss Emily, but also suggesting that suicide is the best course of action, this passage becomes confessional. We now know the sins of the people of Jefferson, and they reveal themselves to be small-minded and morbid.

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