Faulkner uses a number of Gothic elements throughout the short story "A Rose for Emily." How do these elements advance the plot and establish the atmosphere?

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coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Faulkner uses a number of gothic elements in the plot of 'A Rose For Emily' and these elements add to the drama and suspense and also help the readers' minds to carry the action forward in their minds by suggesting doubts, making a creepy atmosphere where anything is possible and weaving tension and suspense. These elements forward the plot by sparking the reader's own imagination and often imagination is more vividly fired by our fears. For example, a big creepy dark neglected old house where no one is ever seen leaving is more likely to be be suspected of having dubious occupants. Add to that an old lady, some townsfolk gossip, some bad sour memories or grudges and the author has successfully created a fertile garden - all Faulkner then had to do was to sow the seeds of suspicion.

Gothic tales are often associated with loneliness, isolation, mystery and mystique coupled with a Romantic and moody backdrop so look for evidence of these and cite them when trying to establish the atmosphere. Also look into Emily's background and the history of her family in the town and ask whether isolated townspeople are more likely to jump to judgemental conclusions when they hear from others that they may have cause. Faulkner foreshadows the gruesome discovery by first outlining the way Emily kept her own father's body for three days - a perfect scenario for that kind of setting, for example.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Faulkner incorporates several Gothic elements throughout his short story "A Rose for Emily" that move the plot forward and establish an atmosphere. The story opens with the funeral of a mysterious woman, Emily Grierson, who lived in a deteriorating mansion described as being an "eyesore" to the town of Jefferson. Faulkner's use of mystery, death, and decay creates the ominous atmosphere that is often associated with Gothic literature. Emily's physical appearance shares similarities with a dead body, and the horrible smell coming from her home suggests that something has died inside. Emily's denial of her father's death suggests that she is mentally unstable, and purchasing arsenic moves the plot forward while simultaneously creating suspense. The fact that Emily rarely leaves her home and nobody enters adds to the ominous atmosphere. Homer Barron's disappearance moves the plot forward, and Emily's death creates tension as the reader wonders what is inside her home. Faulkner concludes the story when the townspeople break down Emily's door to her upstairs room. They end up finding a skeleton on the bed, along with a strand of Emily's gray hair on the pillow beside it, which suggests that she had been sleeping with the corpse. Faulkner's Gothic elements of death, decay, mystery, and mental illness create a dark atmosphere of suspense that moves the plot forward. 

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A Rose for Emily

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