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Analysis of Gothic Elements in 'A Rose for Emily'

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The story begins with Miss Emily Grierson's funeral. No one has been inside her house since she ceased giving China painting lessons eight or ten years earlier except for her servant, so everyone was excited to go look at her house. Emily’s house was one of the oldest houses in the town, and at one point was one of the most beautiful houses in the town as well. Emily’s life was strange and mysterious to many people, she grew up in strange circumstances and rules. Starting with her odd relationships with her father and her lover. She had been seen as arsenic, which the townspeople believed she will use to commit suicide. Though she does not commit suicide, the townspeople of Jefferson continue to gossip about Emily, since she is heard from less and less, and rarely ever seen leaving her home. After her death, the people of her town found Homer's corpse hidden in her upstairs bedroom. Discovering that Emily had been sleeping with Homer’s corpse. In “A rose for Emily” feminist theory can be observed in multiple parts of the text. The feminist theory falls under the umbrella of critical theory, which in general has the purpose of destabilizing systems of power and oppression. The feminist theory will be discussed here

The core concepts in feminist theory are sex, gender, race, discrimination, equality, difference, and choice. There are systems and structures in place that work against individuals based on these qualities and equity and against equality. This writing will be about feminist theory and the discrimination that women were facing during the 1800s.

“A rose for Emily” is a story about the life of a woman with a tragic history. Emily spent her life growing up in a restricting community treating women as the second citizen she grew up in a traditional southern community, that defined people based on their social class, money, and gender. Many of the issues that appear in the story originated from inequality amongst the townspeople, issues that aren’t seen today. As a start, the role of gender is apparent in “A Rose for Emily”. women in society at that time as described in the story are inferior to men, almost as if they were second-class citizens. We see that the story begins with “When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house…” (Faulkner 1) the author makes his beliefs about the role of gender clear by saying that men attended Miss Emily’s funeral with honor and respect whereas women attend the funeral out of curiosity to see her house. He portrays women as being less honorable. Moreover, he believes that a women's true value to society is their appearance. The story focused on miss Emily's appearance throughout her life. And we see that when he said, “When we next saw Miss Emily, she had grown fat and her hair was turning gray. During the next few years, it grew grayer and grayer until it attained an even-pepper-and-salt iron gray when it ceased turning.” (Faulkner 4) Emily Grierson's arrogance is also one of the reasons that she lives such an isolated life. She has no friends and no suitors. When Emily was young, her father would not allow her to have a boyfriend. The townspeople believe that ''the Griersons held themselves a little too high for what they really were. None of the young men were quite good enough for Miss Emily and such.''(Faulkner 2)

Emily clearly worships her father despite his controlling behavior. When the aldermen come to the Grierson home to investigate the strange odor emanating from the house years later, they notice his portrait in a place of prominence: ''On a tarnished gilt easel before the fireplace stood a crayon portrait of Miss Emily's father''(Faulkner 1). The townspeople understand the reason for her devotion to her father though: ''We knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will.''(Faulkner 2)

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Whereas ladies nowadays proceed to contend against the disparity in pay and opportunity, women's liberation has come a long way within the final century. Women's liberation is advocacy for sex balance. Within the early 1900s, ladies had exceptionally constrained choices and were eventually beneath the control of a patriarchal society. In William Faulkner's “A Rose for Emily” the protagonist, Emily, feels persecuted by her position in society. Her reaction to her keeping part does not have positive results for anybody, driving the reader to the conclusion that the world can be a more improved place without these rigidly defined desires. Let's see at a few women's activists cited in the story. The story is told from the point of view of one of Emily's neighbors who portrays the men as being loyal and the ladies as tattling housewives. Upon Emily's passing, “our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house.” (Faulkner 1). After Emily’s death, there’s no remorse for her passing the women of the town instead, they’re portrayed as just prying people who only care about seeing what’s on the inside of her house. The town also prescribes gender roles to the men, as when her house starts to have a bad smell after she died, they start blaming her servant Tobe as if a man can’t keep up with cleaning properly, Emily and her household show a degree of feminism by balking at the traditions that society has assigned to each gender.

Throughout Emily's childhood, her overprotective father stands between her and the outside world, he isolated her from everyone and was obsessive about controlling her life and that’s why she ended up the way she did. For this reason, the town blames him when Emily ends up single. They cannot imagine any other reason why Emily would not have found a man and settled down per her obligation as a woman. From this perspective, when her father dies, her neighbors imagine Emily's grief and denial of her father's death comes because “with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her.” (Faulkner 2).

Still, the expectation is that she finds a man that her father would have approved of. When she begins to see Homer Barron, people are concerned and think, “Poor Emily. Her kinsfolk should come to her.” (Faulkner 3). It is assumed that Emily is unable to make decisions for herself and needs someone to step in for her after the loss of her father. This shows how women were oppressed during the time and looked at in a weak manner as people who can’t make decisions on their own.

Thus, to conclude everything that is stated so far, A Rose for Emily is a sample of Gothic Literature in the US that tells us a heartbreaking story of love, murder, and a lifetime of suffering. Emily is a tragic figure that embodies all the women lining in the US back in those days. It has been extremely hard for women to live normal lives, exercise their rights and freedoms, and just love whomever they wanted. This grim story that might look like a tragedy of an insane old lady living with a corpse is, in fact, a story of all women who had to let go of their freedoms being oppressed by men in their society.

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Analysis of Gothic Elements in ‘A Rose for Emily’. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from
“Analysis of Gothic Elements in ‘A Rose for Emily’.” Edubirdie, 21 Apr. 2023,
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Analysis of Gothic Elements in ‘A Rose for Emily’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Apr 21 [cited 2024 Mar 5]. Available from:
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