What is the general atmosphere of Faulkner's story "A Rose for Emily"?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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The overall mood, synonymous with atmosphere, of "A Rose for Emily" is established in the first sentence--which serves also as the first paragraph--of the story. The introduction of death with the fifth word "died" and "funeral" along with the idea of "monument" juxtaposed so closely to "her house" casts an immediate Gothic patina to the atmosphere of gloom and destruction. The opening adverbial when-clause adds hesitant yet expectant feeling to the mood. This dichotomy or ambiguity of feelings (i.e., hesitant yet expectant) is reinforced by the further juxtaposition of dichotomous or ambiguous word or phrase pairs: respect - fallen; affection - fallen monument; gardener - cook; the men - the women; curiosity - respect; our whole town - no one save an old manservant; died - curiosity; funeral - curiosity. The description of the house, which opens the second paragraph, confirms the ambiguity by telling that  the house was a "squarish house," something that may or may not have been what it appeared to be, specifically for the house, a square, but metaphorically for the tale of Emily's rose. Thus the atmosphere is firmly established with the first lines as dark and gloomy in a Gothic vein with shocked, or shocking, confusion of dichotomous or ambiguous ideas and sentiments.

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