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So you’re going to teach William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily.” Whether it’s your first or hundredth time, “A Rose for Emily” has been a mainstay of English classrooms for generations. While it has its challenging spots, such as a first-person plural narrator and a nonlinear plot, teaching this text to your class will be rewarding for you and your students. Studying “A Rose for Emily” will give them unique insight into Faulkner’s work, Southern gothic literature, and important themes surrounding the functions of culture and the complex legacies of American history. This guide highlights some of the most salient aspects of the text before you begin teaching.

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Facts at a Glance 

  • Publication Date: April 30, 1930
  • Recommended Grade Level: 10-12
  • Approximate Word Count: 3,800
  • Author: William Faulkner
  • Country of Origin: United States
  • Genre: Southern Gothic
  • Literary Period: Modernism
  • Conflict: Person vs. Person, Person vs. Society
  • Narration: First-Person Plural
  • Setting: Fictional Town of Jefferson, Mississippi, 1870s-1920s
  • Dominant Literary Devices: Indirect Characterization, Nonlinear Narrative
  • Mood: Nostalgic, Suspenseful

Texts that Go Well with “A Rose for Emily”

“A Good Man is Hard to Find” (1955) by Flannery O’Connor is another iconic example of Southern gothic literature, examining mortality and family dynamics in the context of American culture. A family ventures out from Georgia on a road trip. But their comedic misadventures turn grave when they cross paths with an escaped convict. Both stories are set in the Southern United States and portray the mounting generational differences and economic decay of the post-Civil War South.

A Streetcar Named Desire (1947) is a play by Tennessee Williams. Blanche DuBois, a Southern belle, flees scandal and misfortune in her Mississippi hometown by visiting her sister Stella in New Orleans. Tension rises and Blanche’s mental health deteriorates as she is caught between the tragedy of her past and the brutality of the present, personified in Stella’s husband, Stanley. A Streetcar Named Desire explores denial, delusion, and memory, developing Southern gothic themes and motifs for the stage.

“Charles” (1948) by Shirley Jackson is a short story about a mother whose son, Laurie, has just started kindergarten. Every evening, Laurie tells his parents about the antics of his badly behaved classmate Charles. The situational irony in “Charles” illustrates how narrative point of view can influence reader perception. It also interrogates themes surrounding denial, culpability, and spectatorship, as Laurie’s parents mirror the role of the townspeople in “A Rose for Emily.”

The Sound and the Fury (1929), As I Lay Dying (1930), and Absalom! Absalom! (1936) are novels by William Faulkner. Like “A Rose for Emily,” these novels are set in fictional Jefferson, Mississippi, and explore ideas of identity, race, gender, and socioeconomic recovery in the South in the wake of the Civil War and Reconstruction. All are written in Faulkner’s modernist, Southern gothic style, and all feature multiple, complex narrative points of view.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) by Harper Lee is often students’ first exposure to Southern gothic literature. The novel follows Scout, a feisty and tempestuous young girl coming of age in Maycomb, Alabama. Scout learns about the complex racial and socioeconomic dynamics of her small town when her father agrees to defend a black man accused of rape.

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History of the Text