Southern Gothic writing in “A Rose for Emily”

What does gothic mean?  What is Southern Gothic, specifically? Wikipedia might be a good place to get a definition and explanation of what Southern Gothic is. How is “A Rose for Emily” an example of this? You might add that as your vocabulary word as well.

There are many genres that cover different writing styles throughout the history of literature. These genres help with identifying the themes and context of literature, which can be found in William Faulkners “A Rose for Emily”. One example of this is Southern Gothic.

Southern Gothic is known to be a subgenre of Gothic literature containing dark themes. The subgenre was common during the early 19th century and much of it stems from views and events of the American South. It covered controversial and grotesque characters, often known for its dark humor and ironic writing. These fictional stories are made from the inspiration of the Souths past of slavery, decay, and societal issues. William Faulkner is well known for writing in this subgenre and this story shows elements of it.

In the story itself, we learn about Emily from an outsiders perspective, us readers being fed information only from those who seem to know her. Within the story, rumors are spread based on the actions she takes.

“So THE NEXT day we all said, ‘She will kill herself’; and we said it would be the best thing. When she had first begun to be seen with Homer Barron, we had said, ‘She will marry him.'”

There are expectations for her to commit suicide, believing that it would be the best. This is one of the central themes as the story starts with Emily’s death, and further along the reader learns about how the death of her father affects her mentally. As she ages, her mental state becomes more unstable and she hides away from the eyes of society. The story fits in with the subgenre as it relates to the decaying home Emily lives in along with a transformation that leads to the worst. Her life shows a twisted form of reality, ending with her corpse being found in her bedroom.


5 thoughts on “Southern Gothic writing in “A Rose for Emily”

  1. Linh Ngo

    I do agree on the fact that “A Rose For Emily” is a perfect fit for the sub-genre. The story of “A Rose For Emily” is divided into five different section, in section one the narrator recalls the time of what happens at Emily funeral. In section two the narrator describe to us what have happen thirty years earlier before Emily death. In section three the narrator describe to us how Emily was suffering from a illness. In section four the narrator describe how the townspeople were afraid that Emily poison herself. Then in section five the narrator went back to describing what happens after Emily had die. To me this type of story is very much a mystery novel, and some what horror. I do agree with the fact that it belong into a sub-genre, due to it having a very mysterious story line, and how dark the this story was.

  2. Tyra

    I agree with your comment about as she ages her mental state becomes more unstable and she hides it away from the eyes of society. Which person in their right mind buys a strong poison and then doesn’t want to give a reason as to why they’re buying it? Most of the time through the end of the story she stays in her house and they end up finding her dead in her bed. Her fathers death definitely took a toll on her life mentally and physically.

    1. Jody R. Rosen

      But they didn’t find her dead in her bed! They found her hair in the bed, next to Homer Barron’s decaying body!

      What is the effect of this ending? How is this different than if she had killed him and buried him in her basement, or outside on her property? Faulkner gives us details that make us think some kind of wrong was committed, probably murder, but what we get at the end…what do we do with that?!

      We should ask ourselves: did we expect Homer to be dead? that Emily killed him? even if we answer yes, was the ending still surprising?

  3. Jahanzeb Siddiqy

    I agree that this story fits into the Southern Gothic genre of literature. This can be seen through various elements in the work. One of them is that the story focuses on Emily’s antisocial tendencies, which is something which is viewed as strange or mysterious which is one of the defining elements of Gothic literature. Also, it can be seen through the authors portrayal of Emily’s house. It used to be a beautiful structure but is now a desolated shack. There is a horrible smell coming out of it. Which also makes the house seem strange.

    1. Jody R. Rosen

      Jahanzeb raises a great point about Emily’s house as another element of Southern Gothic. It’s not like the ending comes out of nowhere–there are details that build up to it, and that we can understand as foreshadowing or creating the gothic effect, especially once we know what to look for. The house was once grand but became decrepit. Can you quote the description of the house?

      The smell is another element that contributes to the Southern Gothic of the story. Does it fit with the idea of the grotesque?


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