How could "A Rose for Emily" be written as a formula fiction and does Faulkner's version have formulaic elements?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Since the label of formulaic fiction is pejorative, implying a lack of originality, one must hesitate to use it against such as William Faulkner, to be sure. Notwithstanding Faulkner's originality, "A Rose for Emily" does fall within the genre of Southern Gothic and, thus, does have elements of genre fiction. And, since formulaic fiction is similar to genre fiction, an argument can be made.

Perhaps, then, the way to rewrite "A Rose for Emily" is to employ more Gothic elements. The story does have the following elements:

  1. archetypes - The patriarchal father, Colonel Sartoris
  2. the grotesque - Emily becomes this when Homer's body is discovered
  3. exposition of the problems of the social order in the South, strange behaviors of Emily
  4. morality of characters is questionable
  5. struggle for a place in the society
  6. story is set in a Southern town with shifting social structure

Other elements that could be developed are the following:

  1. dark humor - For instance, some dark jokes about Homer Barron
  2. stream of consciousness from character as narrator/ character mentally unbalanced - For example, one section could give Emily an interior monologue
  3. the grotesque (Emily fits this at the end) Maybe Emily could be seen somewhere outside at one time
  4. supernatural elements - For example, the odd smell around the house could be given some added elements of supernatural nature (i.e. lightning,etc.)
  5. symbolism - see the critical essays on the link below
Sources:
teachersage's profile pic

teachersage | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

Formula fiction uses familiar plots, characters, settings and themes to tell a story. It is often associated with genre fiction, such as westerns, romances, science fiction or horror, though none of these genres are forced to follow a formula. However, a formulaic horror story would incorporate stock or familiar elements, perhaps opening with a dark and stormy night and set in a creepy Gothic mansion with creaky noises, a flapping shutter and a black cat. By using these devices, the author alerts the readers to expect horror.

Faulkner's story does have formulaic elements. Miss Emily, for example, is styled in the tradition of the elderly, eccentric recluse. She brings to mind other characters of her type, such as Miss Havisham in Dickens's Great Expectations. Her decrepit house, much like a mausoleum, could be seen as a stock setting. Her situation, unmarried and stuck in the past, so much so that she won't acknowledge that certain people have died, is also arguably a stock situation. All of these elements cue us as readers to expect a horror aspect to emerge, and Faulkner doesn't disappoint.

To make this a stock formulaic story, you might rewrite it as a chronological and straightforward narrative rather than relying, as Faulkner does, on flashback and shifting points of view. This might make it a lesser story, but would possibly make it more accessible to readers.

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