What are some Gothic features in Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily"?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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William Faulkner did not typically write Gothic literature; however, it is hard to miss the Gothic elements in "A Rose for Emily." This short story is actually considered Southern Gothic literature, which is slightly different than a more traditional Gothic style. 

Like traditional Gothic writing, the story contains elements of the grotesque, including a rather foreboding tone (the story starts with an announcement of death) as well as the more obvious decay and decomposition (putrefication) in the form of dead bodies being kept from burial (both her father and Homer Barron). The mansion is crumbling from age, and Miss Emily herself is a rather grotesque and putrid figure. She is 

a small, fat woman in black, with a thin gold chain descending to her waist and vanishing into her belt, leaning on an ebony cane with a tarnished gold head. Her skeleton was small and spare; perhaps that was why what would have been merely plumpness in another was obesity in her. She looked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water, and of that pallid hue. Her eyes, lost in the fatty ridges of her face, looked like two small pieces of coal pressed into a lump of dough as they moved from one face to another while the visitors stated their errand.

Even her servant, Tobe grows more stooped and misshapen over the years.

As a Southern Gothic tale, the story is concerned with antisocial behavior, usually because of changing social mores and traditions. Miss Emily is certainly antisocial and lives in her own world which has nothing to do with the more modern world in which she is living. This alienation from the world is no more obvious than when Miss Emily's necrophilia is revealed.

This genre of literature is also concerned with the concept of appropriation and transformation--taking something familiar and showing it in the grotesque. In this case, Miss Emily is a princess-like figure (no one is worthy to marry her, according to her father) who is transformed into a psychologically unstable old maid. 

The Gothic elements in this story are hard to miss and one of the reasons the story is so haunting.