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Southern Gothic as a popular subgenre of romantic literature appeared in the American South. As a mainstream, Gothic fiction got its own features in the American South after the Civil War. Despite origin from Gothic fiction, Southern Gothic used to accent attention on the social issues and cultural peculiarities of the South with magic realism elements. Macabre motives accompanied with grotesque and ironic situations define this genre.

Majority of William Faulkner’s novels deal with typical for Southern Gothic issues: crime, poverty, racism etc. A Rose for Emily is not an exception.

Theme of Death, Crime, Poverty, Racism in the Novel

Abovementioned novel contains all the necessary for Southern Gothic settings. Plotline has the death of Homer Barron, injustice concerning new arrangements and relations in the beaten Southern town, grotesque and mysterious secrets of an outmoded house.

Past tradition meets with the modern generation; this theme exposes Emily, symbolizes tradition and represents “august” families, gallantry and pride of aristocracy. Conflict with modern generation, which has absolutely other values, rational and commercial, is unavoidable. Even refusal to fix mailbox is not just a whim but protection of ethics. Thus, author uses an expression “a fallen monument”.

The power of death is another theme of the novel. It begins with funeral and ends with the discovery of decomposed remains of Homer Barron. The idea of the death of the old South with its social order runs through the story.

At first sight, it seems that there is no chronological order in A Rose for Emily. However, this particular feature distinguishes William Faulkner from other writers of that period. Absence of chronological order in the structure of the novel lets the author make the story more mysterious (with funeral at the beginning and discovery of the corpse at the end).

Emily Grierson is a protagonist with contradicting characteristics. The only undisputable feature is ridiculing stereotypical degenerating Southern family by William Faulkner. It is impossible to say that Emily is a villain, but considering her as an innocent is also inappropriate. Being a hostage of her father, Emily gets his habits after his death. Temporal control over father’s dead body and 40-year long relations with her ex-fiancé easily prove this.

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Traditional social status of aristocrats before the Civil War causes her misunderstanding of law. Scenes with taxes, reception of municipal delegates, refusal to tell the reasons to buy poison and so on illustrate her eccentric willful conduct. Mr. Grierson, as a typical representative of Southern aristocracy, sets big amount of limits that underline their social status. Thus, she considers killing of Homer Barron as a normal deed in the framework of values implanted by colonel Grierson.  Loneliness caused by arrogance left its significant trace in her psychological equilibrium.

Describing Southern communities, William Faulkner uses emotional amplifiers. Grotesquerie and decomposition, degeneracy and decay have depressive impact. Mental disease and necrophilia of Emily play a role of verdict to the whole tradition. In order to achieve the goal, author uses such techniques as foreshadowing and metonyms. Description of Emily in her bed “drowning in time” is an example of metonym. Many examples of foreshadowing are hidden in the text, for instance, suspicious purchase of the poison, keeping the room locked up for 40 years, strange smell from the house, etc.

Ironic, angry and hopeful elements, which change one another, construct the plotline of the story.  Irony is even in the title of the novel; though a protagonist was not a person admirable by town citizens, there were many flowers on her funerals. Angry elements are the reaction of the community on unwillingness of Emily to change under the external influence. The best example of such tone is reaction of people on buying poison for committing potential suicide. Hopefulness is the most difficult element for explanation. Flowers on the funeral of the murderer sound like sacrifice for the peaceful future and new orders. Mysterious symbols add the tone. For example, house inherited by Emily is allegoric symbol of the previous aristocrats. Dust and estrangement remind us about the fight with modernization and loss.

Without a doubt, William Faulkner adheres to the canons of Southern Gothic and is one of the best representatives of this genre.

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