History of the Text

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Reception and Publication History: Though today William Faulkner is widely regarded as one of the renowned American writers of the twentieth century, his work was slow to grow to popularity. “A Rose for Emily”—described by Faulkner as a “ghost story”—was initially rejected by Scribners before being published by Forum magazine on April 30, 1930. Revised editions of “A Rose for Emily” appeared in his 1931 collection These 13 and his 1950 collection Collected Stories. Since then, “A Rose for Emily” has been widely anthologized and celebrated as one of Faulkner’s best short stories. In acknowledgment of his body of work, Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1949 and Pulitzer Prizes in 1955 and 1962.

Faulkner and Southern Gothic Literature: Faulkner’s written work is considered by many to exemplify Southern gothic literature. This genre developed in the early twentieth century and explores the disparity between idealized notions of the antebellum South and the oppressive and violent historical realities of this region. Southern gothic literature often features decaying plantations, towns that never recovered from the Civil War, and characters who maintain their innate superiority despite living in dilapidated circumstances. Much of Faulkner’s work, including “A Rose for Emily,” is set in the fictional county of Yoknapatawpha, Mississippi, the site of a major Civil War battle. Many of Faulkner’s characters struggle to reconcile their social positions in the early twentieth century with glorified notions of themselves and their past.

  • “A Rose for Emily” as a Southern Gothic Story: “A Rose for Emily” exhibits most of the elements commonly associated with Southern gothic literature: the macabre, violent events, social inequities, and a decaying setting that illustrates the extent to which life has changed in the American South following the Civil War.

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Significant Motifs