Written by Audrey Thibodeau
the Gothic elements of “A Rose for Emily”
Gothic can be defined as “literature dealing with the strange, mysterious, and supernatural designed to invoke suspense and terror in the reader.” (Pickering, 2004, p. 1425) Gothic literature generally presents the same themes and motifs: love lost, hidden secrets, love and death hand in hand, beauty, youth, grotesque characters, macabre eroticism, etc. Gothic literature also explores taboo subjects such as murder, suicide and incest. “A Rose for Emily”, by William Faulkner, is representative of the Southern Gothic stories since the themes of love lost, death, and murder are present in it. There are many elements that hint at the Gothic nature of the story: Emily’s description, her house, the poison she bought, and finally the ending. Emily, the protagonist, used to be the perfect young and rich lady living with her father, but now she is an old woman living alone in her crumbling house. However, the inhabitants of the city she where she lives respect her. Throughout the story, the author describes her as being weird and lonely. “She looked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water, and of that pallid hue. Her eyes, lost in the fatty ridges of her face, looked like two small pieces of coal pressed into a lump of dough.” She is described as a living death. This description creates suspense for the readers. Then, later on in the story, Emily denies her father’s death and refuses to let people come in her house to get the body. “She told them that her father was not dead. She did that for three days (…) just as they were about to resort to law and force, she broke down, and they buried her father quickly.” This attitude generates a frightening atmosphere for the readers and this kind of atmosphere is an important characteristic of Gothic stories. Moreover, Faulkner’s portrayal of the gothic is also described through Emily’s house. What used to be a big and beautiful estate is now...
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