Student Question

What is the genre of "A Rose for Emily"?

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"A Rose for Emily" is part of the Southern gothic genre.

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"A Rose for Emily" is a classic example of Southern gothic literature. As one can probably glean from the genre's name, Southern gothic literature is essentially gothic fiction set in the American South, and it blends the tropes common to gothic stories with the culture and history of this region.

Gothic literature tends to focus on the lingering effects of the past on the present. Traditional gothic stories take place in old castles or mansions and often feature ghosts or at least characters still haunted by history both personal and corporate. Think of the characters in the gothic classic Wuthering Heights: while the ghosts in the story may or may not be real, the characters are still heavily affected by the doomed love between Catherine and Heathcliff, even into the next generation.

"A Rose for Emily" may not feature literal ghosts or crumbling castles, but it does feature its own "haunted house" in the form of Emily Grierson's house. Emily herself is considered an institution in the town, a living relic of the Old South. Gothic literature's obsession with the macabre appears in the form of Emily's murder of her lover Homer and her necrophilic attachment to his rotting corpse. The final discovery of his skeleton in bed is pure gothic horror.

Of course, Southern gothic literature has its own special interests. These stories tend to be more social and political in their interests than classic gothic literature, commenting on race relations and other sociological elements of Southern American culture. In "A Rose for Emily," the lingering presence of Emily's Black house servant, who appears to have no life of his own outside of the Grierson household, is reminiscent of slavery in the Old South. Emily's scandalous attachment to the Northerner Homer also comments on relations between the South and the North during the Reconstruction period.

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