How do "A Rose For Emily" and “A Good Man is Hard to Find”  explain or fit the description of Southern Gothic?

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Southern Gothic literature is set in the South and through the (often odd) characters and grotesque themes shows the fragile truths of Southern culture. Often the plots examine ideas about racism, poverty, violence, or entrenched yet misguided Southern culture.

These qualities are primarily exposed through the grandmother in "A Good Man Is Hard to Find." They hardly get on the road for their trip before her carefully composed exterior gives way to racist comments:

"Oh look at the cute little pickaninny!” she said and pointed to a Negro child standing in the door of a shack. “Wouldn’t that make a picture, now?” she asked and they all turned and looked at the little Negro out of the back window.

The grandmother dresses in a manner reflecting "proper" traditional Southern culture. She wears white gloves, a hat adorned with flowers, and a dress with a collar and cuffs so that everyone "would know at once that she was a lady." Yet her heart isn't ladylike at all; she is full of judgement, and this sense of warped morality ends up costing the grandmother her life at the hands of the Misfit. She believes that the way to convince her murderer to spare her life is by insisting that he has "good blood." The misfit himself displays the grotesque qualities of Southern Gothic literature. As he is summoning the mother and her children to their waiting deaths, he offers them some gentlemanly help:

“Hep that lady up, Hiram,” The Misfit said as she struggled to climb out of the ditch, “and Bobby Lee, you hold onto that little girl’s hand.”

Southern chivalry isn't typically displayed in the midst of violence, so this is a grotesque blending of Southern culture.

Miss Emily Grierson enjoys life at the top of Southern social hierarchy because her family has always existed in that role. However, this level of respect is fragile and misguided as Miss Emily is hiding quite a secret in the privacy of her own home. The world around her is changing faster than she is able to navigate; when the tax collectors appear to inquire about her non-payment of taxes, she insists that she owes no taxes and directs them to Colonel Sartoris (who has been dead for ten years) with any questions. When Homer Barron tries to end their (questionable) relationship, she uses arsenic to kill him and then stores him away in her bedroom for decades. The truth about Miss Emily shows that "respectable" Southern society sometimes hides grotesque truths under social titles.

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Both William Faulkner’s short story “A Rose for Emily” and Flannery O’Connor’s short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” can be categorized as Southern Gothic literature. Gothic literature is that which includes strong elements of darkness—possibly horror and perhaps a little of the macabre. “Southern Gothic” literature is that which includes such elements but also has its origins in the American South of the early half of the twentieth century. Faulkner was a product of Mississippi, and O’Connor of Georgia—both states of the Deep South. Their respective bodies of work reflect their strong Southern backgrounds as well as their tendencies toward cynicism.

“A Rose for Emily” is the story of a woman (the titular figure) who is raised by an over-protective father and, after his death, remains somewhat reclusive and a figure of some mystery and speculation among the citizens of her small town. The story’s climax involves the discovery that the now-deceased Emily had kept prisoner a young construction foreman; she even kept his corpse in her bed.

“A Good Man is Hard to Find” is similarly macabre and involves death—this time of an innocent family at the hands of an escaped convict called “the Misfit” and his cronies.

Both stories revolve around eccentric personalities—Emily and “the grandmother”—and both take place in the American South, the region native to the stories’ respective authors. Both narratives evoke the feel of the American South, with Faulkner’s narrator describing a setting that includes cotton gins, African American servants at the beck and call of once-prominent whites, and the reference to Miss Emily’s final resting place among the “ranked and anonymous graves of Union and Confederate soldiers who fell at the battle of Jefferson.” As with Miss Emily, O’Connor’s protagonist, the grandmother, represents genteel antebellum Southern refinement badly tattered by a more modern legacy of poverty and changing values. Note in the following passage the author’s description of the way her main character prepares for a road trip through the South:

The old lady settled herself comfortably, removing her white cotton gloves and putting them up with her purse on the shelf in front of the back window. The children’s mother still had on slacks and still had her head tied up in a green kerchief, but the grandmother had on a navy blue straw sailor hat with a bunch of white violets on the brim and a navy blue dress with a small white dot in the print. Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet. In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady.

That this “lady” should take actions that precipitate the murder of herself and her family definitely lends O’Connor’s story a Gothic element, on par with Faulkner’s aging spinster laying down every night near the decomposed body of her would-be lover. If these two stories do not qualify as “Southern Gothic,” nothing does. Irrational thought processes, legacies of eras gone by, violence, and atmospheres deeply steeped in the American South are all present in both narratives.

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Southern Gothic fiction depicts a grotesque world in ruin.  In the two stories you ask about, the post-Civil War South is in ruin.

"A Rose for Emily" is specifically Southern Gothic.  Emily's home is a crumbling castle, the Southern economy is ruined, Emily's family is ruined, and the house's smell and Emily's penchant for holding on to corpses are grotesque.  The town in the story is truly a world in ruin, and mystery, in the form of Emily, pervades the story.

"A Good Man is Hard to Find" is less obviously Southern Gothic, in that no house/castle is falling to pieces and no one sleeps with a corpse.  A physical setting of decay does not center this work.

But the fictional world of "Good Man" is still a depraved, grotesque world in ruin.  The grandmother is hideous, and creates a hideous world for those around her.  She sees herself as a Christian, and sees her Christianity as a ticket to bully and criticize those around her who are not as godly as she is.  She is unaccepting of everyone.  The Misfit, of course, is grotesque in his violence, and presides over the ruined world of the story. 

O'Connor's Southern world is a grotesque, ruined world, in which God's grace is at work, ironically, through the violent Misfit.  It is an upside-down world in which the murderous Misfit is a more attractive character than the hypocritical, self-righteous grandmother. 

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