Southern Gothic: Macabre and Grotesque

A Rose for Emily   by William Faulkner (1930)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   January 20, 2015

Most know Flannery O’Conner to be the queen of southern Gothic literature. William Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily has all the ingredients of the traditional macabre and then some.



When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral.”

Spinster Emily Grierson lives in a decaying old house in the town of Jefferson, Mississippi during Civil War time. She used to paint china cups and taught young women to paint china cups. Then, tragedy strikes.  As she grows old and sick, the townsfolk would see her sitting at her downstairs window “like a carven torso of an idol in a niche, looking or not looking out …”


Artist George Frederic Watts


Faulkner writes a moody tale, forbidding, with palls of dust and shadows slathering his prose. Death is the central character in this story where the past and present coexist. Most of the story is told in flashbacks as we go forward and backward in time in Emily’s life. And it’s all done in Faulkner’s seamless and provocative narrative. I especially like how his descriptions mirror the psychological complexity of Emily. She is the relic of a once grand family.

180px-Rose_for_emily_2The title A Rose for Emily is allegorical. There is no rose in the story, only presence of the color: ‘the valance of curtain of faded rose color, upon the rose shaded lights’ in the bridal chamber. (See Faulkner note.)

Some readers find Faulkner’s novels too stream of consciousness, his syntax heavy, making his writing thorny to follow. If you’re not a fan of Faulkner or have not experienced his writing style (and I’d wager that most horror and supernatural readers are not big fans), this is a story that is easy to follow and will invite you into Faulkner’s world. His writing conjures up vivid images and emotionally delicate but grotesque elements.


Faulkner once advised his readers to reread his novels to get it. You won’t have to reread Emily. Once is enough for this short story. And if you do read it, I’d love to hear your reaction to this Gothic short story by an American literary giant. search

Read the text here at

Listen to the audio (done in a Southern accent) here at YouTube.

Might I suggest you listen to the audio as you read along for heightened southern flavors.



Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Bibliophilica       Lovecraft Ezine  

Horror Novel Reviews    Hell Horror    HorrorPalace       Sirens Call Publications

 Monster Librarian  Tales to Terrify       Spooky Reads

 Rob Around Books    The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror classic authors.


Filed under fiction, horror, horror blogs, literary horror, short stories

2 responses to “Southern Gothic: Macabre and Grotesque

  1. Hi Jay. I will check out the Kevin Wilson story, thanks. I read the Emily story years ago and came across it again now. The second and third readings I did this week really penetrated much deeper than the first time. I can’t say I’m a big fan of Faulkner but this story is unforgettable.


  2. Jay

    “A Rose for Emily” has not escaped inclusion in my annual deal me in short story reading challenge. I read it back in 2011. ( )

    After five more years of blogging – and learning – I’ve finally gotten to a point where “I know Southern Gothic when I see it!” and this story is indeed a great example.

    A good contemporary example might be Kevin Wilson. His story collection “Tunneling to the Center of the Earth” might be one you’d enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

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