“A Rose for Emily”: Southern Gothic Literary Tradition

Miss Emily Grierson fits the description of Southern Gothic tradition in “A Rose for Emily” due to the fact that she is portrayed as a character with symptoms of mental illness that cause her to do horrific things. She is also a symbol of respect in the town and considered a “fallen monument” (Faulkner, 1930, p. 543). The community of Jefferson never thought Miss Emily was “crazy”, but that she was an ill person. Although, there were many instances within the story that suggested that she was mentally unstable.

The reader of “A Rose for Emily” might come to this conclusion because of the conditions Emily lived in as a Southern woman. Her father kept her isolated from the outside world and the young men who came to see her and this may have made her mentally ill. With the death of her father and the family being of wealth in the community, along with the views others had of Emily as having a “hereditary obligation” (Faulkner, 1930, p. 543) to continue the traditions that had been happening for generations, were hard for Miss Emily to continue because of her mental illness.

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It was stated by the narrator that Miss Emily had been “sick for a long time” (Faulkner, 1930, p. 543), but there was no mention of what her illness was. The death of her father made her mental illness more noticeable. This was told by the quote that Emily had “no trace of grief on her face” (Faulkner, 1930, p. 543) when the women of the town come to give their condolences and maybe even more so when Miss Emily insisted that “her father was not dead” (Faulkner, 1930, p. 543). It seems Emily may have killed her father because of the life that she had with him.

Even with all of the noticeable symptoms the community still helped Miss Emily to believe in that she was okay. There were other episodes of Miss Emily’s mental illness in the story, such as when she states she has “no taxes in Jefferson” (Faulkner, 1930, p. 543) over and over. Another instance, is when Miss Emily goes to buy poison unwilling to tell what she needs the poison for. The final episode, is the fact that she not only poisoned Homer Barron, but she was obviously sleeping with his dead body.

There seems to have been a plot to kill Homer by Miss Emily because she did not want to lose Homer. When she had gone out and bought items for the man who the townspeople thought would be Miss Emily’s husband, this clearly was a thought out plan. Miss Emily may have felt she had to kill Homer in order to keep him and this might have been because she was never able to have men in her life, other than her father and Tobe. During the story “A Rose for Emily”, the entire community continues to protect Miss Emily and perhaps the town from shame.

The only person to have contact with Miss Emily throughout her many years of isolation was Tobe and he never spoke about what happened or went on in the house of Emily Grierson. Tobe probably knew of Miss Emily’s illness and kept it a secret in order to protect her and her family’s name from embarrassment and scrutiny in the town she had lived all of her life.


  1. A World of Writing, Stories, Poems, Plays & Essays. Faulkner, William (1930), A Rose for Emily, page 543. Retrieved from myeclassonline. com.

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“A Rose for Emily”: Southern Gothic Literary Tradition. (2018, May 19). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/southern-gothic-literary-tradition-essay/