A more elaborate understanding on the modes of narration is later on cleared as the narrator reveals how much he or she knows when said: “Already we knew” about the sealed room upstairs and what lies behind it; however, we never knew how he/she knew. More significantly, for one of the few times in the story the narrator uses the term “they” and not “we” as opposing to the previous sections; he/she originally said “Already we knew that there was one room in that region above stairs which no one had seen in forty years” (Faulkner 6); however, he/she follows it with: “They waited until Miss Emily was decently in the ground before they opened it” (Faulkner 6). Even though this shift is very quick and subtle, it is important because the narrator always grouped his/her opinion and thoughts with the rest of the townspeople, yet now he/she couldn’t bring himself/herself to do it. The narrator distances himself/herself from unsealing the door because to him/her it is like breaking a certain bond with Miss Emily, a betrayal which shows the readers that the narrator genuinely cared for Miss Emily despite her actions. In a town that sculptured Miss Emily to be a horror figure, the gesture of looking away or leaving and never showing again after the narrator, presumably the servant opens the front door for the visitors to unlock the door shows a deep symbolic meaning of care and sympathy.
In “A Rose for Emily” Faulkner does not attain a stable timeline for the plot. He does not approach his characters’ inner lives and thoughts in a conventional way. However, he shifts and manipulates time in a way that has stretched the story for a myriad of decades. Readers were able to decipher the egregious life of Emily Grierson through flashbacks. As mentioned before, the story starts with a description of Emily Grierson’s funeral and then shifts to the first flashback where Mr. Grierson refuses to let a man take his young daughter to a dance, and chases off suitors with a whip. Faulkner continually shifts between the past and present between young Emily and old Emily who has died at seventy-four. At the end of the story, we see that the funeral is as well a flashback following the unsealing of the upstairs bedroom door that held Homer’s body. Faulkner’s purpose for these timeline shifts has to do with the changes the South goes through, not only Emily; By this transition between forwards and backwards in time, Faulkner is able to convey to the readers how these timelines influence each other as the past and present coexist in the story. Through these shifts, the author creates a certain complex and multilayered dimensions to the story. Faulkner’s style of writing has categorized the story into two parts of time. One is based on the reality that no matter what happens, time and life moves on, and the other part is based on a personal level that time moves forward, but the experience or event a person went through sometimes holds a person in place and he/she cannot let go, leaving them in a distant active memory no matter how much the world around him/her evolves and changes. For Emily, the case was the subjective side where she was in denial when her father died and refused to believe that he died, in addition to her refusal of modernizing the house: “It was a big, squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies, set on what had once been our most select street. But garages and cotton gins had encroached and obliterated even the august names of that neighborhood; only Miss Emily’s house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps-an eyesore among eyesores.” (Faulkner 1) As well as her non-acceptance to the fact that Homer was leaving her. This showed how life moved on, but Emily stayed planted in the past, clutching to her past memories that have affected her present.
As she stands by the window, her ghost eyes staring right back at her, she sees a rose, a form of her imagination because she knew she never possibly was ever able to grasp a rose…the symbol of love, romance, and friendship, for she was forbidden of this love by her father. The “Rose” found in the title was never a rose that she received but a symbol of the love she never got to receive, the absent love. As she stands by the window, she thinks of the ghost her painter drew for her in her story, the ghost Faulkner talked constantly about. As she comes to a realization…it turns out she was the ghost; “the carven torso of an idol in a niche” (Faulkner 6), “the disappeared Homer Barron, the wraithlike Tobe, the voice of the town is the most ghostlike: pervasive, shape-shifting, haunting. No wonder Miss Emily stayed indoors” (Klein 3). Many readers may have overlooked several details in the story, yet no reader can ever deny that Faulkner’s time shifts and the ambiguity in the narrator were marvelous and kept the reader hooked until he/she submerged into the story and became part of the “we” the narrator so excessively talked about. Symbols and imageries were represented at the beginning of the story that foreshadowed to upcoming events and Emily’s personality; words like “stubborn and coquettish decay” (Faulkner 1) which showed how Emily refused to upgrade like the rest of her neighbors because she did not accept change and wanted to freeze the grains of sand as they slip through the hour glass from one side to the other. The description of Faulkner of when Emily Grierson got visitors in the past, the descriptions of the “cracked leather”, the “faint dust” rising sluggishly, and the infamous “crayon portrait of Miss Emily’s father”, as well as the odor her house possessed: “It smelled of dust and disuse–a close, dank smell” (Faulkner 1) this made it evident that she did not keep a clean and neat environment, resulting in an unconcerned state towards herself and the visitors. The narrator was able to leave the readers in a daze due to the inconsistent mode of narration and that enabled the readers to build numerous theories on who is the narrator. A Rose for Emily is not a story, but a journey every woman goes through; William Faulkner was able to speak about the reality of gothic literature, of the south and of life in such a stupefying way between the narrator’s word transitions and the time transitions that has rendered all readers and critiques speechless.