Social Conventions In ‘a Rose For Emily’ By Using South Gothic Style Critical Thinkings Examples

Type of paper: Critical Thinking

Topic: Sociology, Homer, Death, House, Father, Parents, Family, Body

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/12/21


A Rose for Emily, by Faulkner, is a short story of Gothic horror and tragedy. Yet, it can be argued that A Rose for Emily can be construed to be a Southern Gothic, where the protagonist is “under siege” (Donaldson). Till her father was alive, Emily lived an aristocratic life, but on her father’s demise, all she was left with was the old house, and in a way, the people of the village were glad. They could now pity her, as being left alone, and a pauper, she had become humanized, and she would know the old thrill and the old despair of a penny more or less” (Faulkner). As a result of her loneliness and abject poverty, she succumbs to mental illness; an old tradition of Old South aristocrats. Gothic horror is all about dark, mysterious tragedies, and when such stories are written within Southern cultural and character types, they are often characterized as Southern Gothic.  A prominent genre associated with Southern Gothic is the elevation of a grotesque character, and in A Rose for Emily, Emily becomes the grotesque character who elicits our empathy and hatred. ‘Grotesque’, means “the demented, the deformed, and the queer,” (Donaldson); characteristics associated with Emily. Through her personalization, Faulkner creates a “dangerous woman who serves as a disrupter of male narratives and as a signifier in the breakdown of cultural narratives of traditional man- and womanhood” (Donaldson). Emily had “stepped out of line, transgressed the boundaries of a woman’s tradition role in society to become a disruptive force in the male bastion,” says Donaldson. These characteristics can be seen right through the short story.
Faulkner’s work is designed to show the struggle of an individual against an oppressive society (in this case we see the new board of Alderman demanding Emily to pay tax), that is seeking rapid changes; two qualities associated with the Southern Gothic style. One sees Emily appropriated by Faulkner as a distressed woman who eventually becomes a psychological mess. The state she finally reveals herself to be is in essence the true Southern Gothic heroine Faulkner wants her to be. When she tells the deputation that “she has no taxes in Jefferson, as Colonel Sartoris explained it to me, and that perhaps, one of them could gain access to the city records and satisfy themselves” (Faulkner), her degeneration is complete. Sartoris had died more than ten years ago, and her argument that Colonel Sartoris had explained it to her, is hollow.
When a deputation called by the Board of Alderman called on her after she refused to pay her taxes, she entered the all in a black dress; a symbolic representation of the Southern Gothic style. When she answers them authoritatively, “I received a paper, yes. Perhaps he considers he self the sheriffI have no taxes in Jefferson. See Colonel Sartoris” (Faulkner), it is clear that she was not willing to take any order from the men. There was no way she was going to pay her taxes. And when she calls out to her Negro servant Tobe and tells him to “Show these gentlemen out”, it is obvious that she wanted to show the deputation team who was the boss. Thus one sees how Emily had transgressed the boundaries of a woman’s traditional role in society. Her arrogance shows her rebellious southern gothic style. In contemporary society, it would be unheard of for a woman to defy the law of the land and walk scot free. It would also been hard to ever imagine take on the law head-on and defy orders. In showing her grotesque character, Faulkner was highlighting a social convention followed by Southern Gothic writers.
As long as she lived under her father’s shadow, she lived an aristocratic life, and she was well respected. However, on his death, Emily found she couldn’t cope with the traditions of the modern world, and confined herself to the loneliness associated with Southern Gothic characters. Her loneliness led to her disintegration and she became insane. An incident that shows Emily defy social conventions is her grotesque reaction to hold on to the body of a man whom she loved dearly was frightened would lose if she didn’t do something about it. o becomes her companion but later decides to abandon her, she murders him and keeps his corpse in an upper room of her house. “So she had vanquished the deputation team just as she had vanquished their fathers thirty years before about the smell” (Faulkner). The town folks had seen Homer go with Emily, and it was also well-known that the two had been seeing each other for years. But he had vanished from sight completely. Therefore, when the deputation team had gone to Emily’s house to meet her regarding the tax dues, they had felt the smell of something foul. They felt that something was not right and asked the judge to ask her to explain the smell, and when he refused to ask a woman why she smelt so foul, a team of four people broke open the cellar door and sprinkled lime there, and in all the outbuildings. “After a week or two, the smell had gone” (Faulkner). Emily had one day walked over to the town druggist and asked for poison, and he asked her for what purpose, she had said “Arsenic.” There was talk that poor Emily would kill herself one day as she became isolated from society, but when she was seen with Homer Barron, there was a renewed interest in them on Emily’s relationship with a man.
However, for a Grierson to have an affair with a dark man was beyond realms, and the town people thought that wedding bells were round the corner. There was also talk that Homer was more interested in men than in Emily. However, one day, when Homer disappeared and returned to Emily’s house; “a neighbour saw the Negro man admit him at the kitchen door at dusk one evening, that was the last they saw of Homer” (Faulkner). Social convention believes that it would be inappropriate for a woman of the social class to which Emily belonged would have an affair with a man who was way below her status, but in Emily’s case, she developed a strong bon with Homer after her father’s death. Her social stature meant that she couldn’t mingle with the women of the town as they were considered to below her social class. Therefore, against social conventions, she had embraced Homer to be her partner. She couldn’t see herself to be alone, and she needed company. Therefore, it was appropriate that she took Homer to be her man. However, when Homer was last seen entering Emily’s house through the kitchen door, nobody suspected that something uncivilized would have happened. Therefore, when the deputation team reacted to the foul smell emanating from her house, nobody suspected it to be of a dead person. In true grotesque style, Emily had killed and kept the dead body of Homer Barron with her. In true Southern Gothic style, she was ‘seized’. It was against social conventions to hold on to the body of a dead man in the house beyond a reasonable time because of the health and social issues attached to it, and when her father had died, Emily had categorically said that her father was alive and that there was no way they could snatch him from her. It was only the threat to use force that finally allowed her father’s dead body to be taken for burial. In this case, no one knew of Homer’s death, and the foul smell didn’t give them reason to believe that it was from the dead body of Homer. Who could have guessed that Emily would kill a man she loved and keep the body in the house with all that foul smell? Would Emily act out of social conventions? Here again, one sees her seizure become a role model of the Southern Gothic style. Ellis and Marshall (), writes that “zombie narratives remain too rich to be continued as regional reading in literature; the provenance of their mythic graves remains mostly Southern.” There is enough evidence in Emily’s action to ‘preserve the dead bodies of her father and lover’ to justify their ‘livingness’ even when they were dead. She was sure that they were alive; a notion she wanted to believe and have, when they were actually dead. She just couldn’t let go of things she loved. In her last-ditch attempt to capture her life-long love, she murders Homer Barron, and instead of disposing of his body in some convenient way, she keeps it in her home, in her bed, for decades (McDermott). Emily just cannot let things go, even decomposing things. Faulkner used Emily to show how Southern Gothic heroines defied social conventions to meet their means.


Social conventions are behaviors and attitudes that people follow in a society, and what is termed as acceptable. In the case of Emily, it was a case of defying normal social conventions, as she portrayed a character that was unheard of in her times. For a person of nobility to have an affair with a person of a lower social status was unacceptable, and her behaviour was grotesque in that she exhibited qualities that were demented, deformed, and queer.

Works Cited

Donaldson, Susan V. “Making a Spectacle-Welty, Faulkner and Southern Gothic”
Ellis and Marshall, “Intro to Southern Gothic and Defining Southern Gothic,” On Southern
Gothic Literature
Faulkner, William, “A Rose for Emily”
McDermott, John A. “Do You Love Mother, Norman?”: Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" And
Metalious's Peyton Place as Sources for Robert Bloch's Psycho'. J Popular Culture 40.3 (2007): 454-467. Web.

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WePapers. (2020, December, 21) Social Conventions In ‘a Rose For Emily’ By Using South Gothic Style Critical Thinkings Examples. Retrieved September 28, 2023, from
"Social Conventions In ‘a Rose For Emily’ By Using South Gothic Style Critical Thinkings Examples." WePapers, 21 Dec. 2020, Accessed 28 September 2023.
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"Social Conventions In ‘a Rose For Emily’ By Using South Gothic Style Critical Thinkings Examples." WePapers, Dec 21, 2020. Accessed September 28, 2023.
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"Social Conventions In ‘a Rose For Emily’ By Using South Gothic Style Critical Thinkings Examples," Free Essay Examples -, 21-Dec-2020. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 28-Sep-2023].
Social Conventions In ‘a Rose For Emily’ By Using South Gothic Style Critical Thinkings Examples. Free Essay Examples - Published Dec 21, 2020. Accessed September 28, 2023.

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