What social attitudes and cultural practices related to “A Rose for Emily” were prevalent during the time it was written?I am trying to write an historical criticism paper for “A Rose for...

What social attitudes and cultural practices related to “A Rose for Emily” were prevalent during the time it was written?

I am trying to write an historical criticism paper for “A Rose for Emily.”

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Prior to the Civil War, the South was more like its own country than it was a part of the United States.  After the Civil War and Reconstruction, both major defeats for the South, it was left rather vacuous, without identity, "Christ-haunted" according to Flannery O'Connor, but still very much aware of its former glory according to Faulkner, who didn't believe in the concept of past:

The past is never dead. It’s not even past. (Requiem for a Nun)

And

“[T]o me,” Faulkner remarked, “no man is himself, he is the sum of his past. There is no such thing really as was because the past is. It is a part of every man, every woman, and every moment. All of his and her ancestry, background, is all a part of himself and herself at any moment.”

As it relates to "A Rose for Emily," the South (Emily) is trying to recapture and morbidly maintain the Old and the Dead.  So, what the South was still very much aware of were the following:

  • Fundamentalist Protestant and evangelical zeal
  • Chevalier heritage
  • Agrarian virtue and plantation aristocracy
  • White supremacy
  • Purity of womanhood
  • Birthplace of jazz, blues, and rock 'n roll
  • Hotbed of sports (football)
  • A "lost cause"; illegitimate; full of contradictions
  • A fragmented, bi-polar culture

I've got two favorite quotes about the South.  The first is from W. J. Cash and Lillian Smith from everything2.com:

Extant and not (as a cultural construct), the South continues to constitute a profound problem: how to resolve its contradictions? It is a distinct and wonderful place, the source of jazz and the Southern novel; it is also the site of slavery, lynchings, and hyper-conservative delusions of Christianity. In short, it is a bipolar culture suffering a grave existential crisis, and her residents posses the same fragmentation of identity, the same duality of existence, which makes the South such a difficult place to consider without anxiety.146

The other is from John Shelton Reed's My Tears Spoiled My Aim:

You're in the American South now, a proud region with a distinctive history and culture. A place that echoes with names like Thomas Jefferson and Robert E. Lee, Scarlett O'Hara and Uncle Remus, Martin Luther King and William Faulkner, Billy Graham, Mahalia Jackson, Muhammad Ali, Elvis Presley. Home of the country blues and country music, bluegrass and Dixieland jazz, gospel music and rock and roll. Where menus offer both down-home biscuits and gravy and uptown shrimp and grits. Where churches preach against "cigarettes, whiskey, and wild, wild women" (all Southern products) and where American football is a religion.

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