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Analysis of Southern Gothic Literature Essay

Southern Gothic literature, which is a sub-genre of the Gothic writing style, is unique to the American South. Southern Gothic literature has many of the same aspects as Gothic literature; it focuses on topics such as death, madness, and the super natural as well has having many mystical, bizarre, violent, and grotesque aspects. These tools are used “to explore social issues and reveal the cultural character of the American South (Wikipedia). ” The authors of Southern Gothic writing use damaged characters to enhance their stories, and to show deeper highlights of unpleasant southern characteristics.

These characters are usually set apart from their societies due to their mental, physical, and or social disabilities. However not all the aspects of the characters are bad “it is more often the case that a mixture of good and bad is found in most of the characters (McFLY)” The authors of these stories do give the main character some good qualities; this is so the reader will fill sympathy and understanding for the character. Two authors who exhibit the Southern Gothic writing style are William Faulkner, who wrote “A Rose for Emily”, and Flannery O’Conner, the author of “Good Country People” and “A Good Man is Hard to Find”.

William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” is an example of Southern Gothic literature. It contains many aspects of Southern Gothic writing, such as an old dark mansion, death, mystery, bizarre events, and the crazy Miss. Emily. The story takes place in a small town in Jefferson Mississippi. The narrator tells us the story of Miss. Emily Grierson, from the town’s point of view. “? A Rose for Emily’ is the remarkable story of Emily Grierson, an aging spinster in Jefferson, whose death and funeral drew the attention of the entire town (Faulkner n. p. ).

” The first sign that this story is going to be Southern Gothic is when Faulkner describes her funeral. According to the narrator, when Miss. Emily died, everyone attended 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 (Perrine’s 281). ” The narrator then goes on to tell the story of Miss. Emily. Miss. Emily lived in a once beautiful, white, seventies style home, but as the years went by her home became “an eyesore among eyesores (Perrine’s 281).

“This may be a reflection of how the town saw Miss. Emily herself, once beautiful and now an eyesore to the entire community. After Miss. Emily’s father had died, Colonel Sartoris told her that she would not have to pay taxes on her house, due to the fact that her “father had loaned money to the town, which the town, [. . . ], preferred this way of repaying (Perrine’s 282). ” So for many years, Miss. Emily went on with out paying taxes. When the next generation came into office, a tax notification was sent to Miss. Emily, who sent it back to them with no other comments.

The “Board of Aldermen” was sent to her house; they “knocked at the door through which no visitor had passed (Perrine’s 282)” through for eight to ten years. When they were let in, by “the old Negro”, they house smelled of dust and disuse (Perrine’s 282). ” When Miss. Emily entered the dimly light living room “she looked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water (Perrine’s 282-283). ” The spokesman asked why Miss. Emily had not paid her taxes, to which she replied “I have no taxes in Jefferson. [? ] See Colonel Sartoris (Perrine’s 283). ” What Miss.

Emily did not know was that Colonel Sartoris had been dead for almost ten years now. On one occasion, a neighborhood woman went to the mayor to complain of a smell coming from Miss. Emily’s house. The mayor thought nothing of it until two more complaints were received the next day. Finally the Board of Aldermen sent four men out to her house the next night, after midnight, and sprinkled lime all around Miss. Emily’s house and outbuildings; “After a week or two the smell went away (Perrine’s 284). ” After that incident, the people began to feel sorry for her.

They believed that “the Griersons held themselves a little too high for what they really were (Perrine’s 284). ” No man was good enough for her by her father and by the time she was thirty she was still unwed. After her father died, the people finally had a reason to fell bad for her. She was alone in the world with only her house left; this left her humanized. The day after her father’s death, the women of the town went to give their condolences to Miss. Emily. To their surprise, Miss. Emily was “dressed as usual” and had “no trace of grief on her face (Perrine’s 285).

” Emily told the women that her father was not dead. Finally after three days of trying to hold on to her father, “she broke down, and they buried her father quickly (Perrine’s 285). ” The town’s people tired to justify Miss. Emily’s actions, by saying that she had nothing left, and was clinging to the one thing that had robbed her for so long they convinced themselves that she was not crazy. The summer after her father died, the town hired contractors to pave the sidewalks. The foreman, Homer Barron, and Miss. Emily became quite fond of one another.

On Sunday afternoons they could bee seen driving in his buggy together. Soon the people began to whisper about Emily and Homer. Emily held her head high; she would not be seen as anything other than respectful. The town’s people believed that Miss. Emily should have kinfolk come to stay with her for a while. While Emily’s two cousins were visiting her, she went and bought rat poison. When she got to the drug store, she would not tell the druggist why she wanted arsenic, but when she got home, under the skull and bones on the box the druggist had written “For rats.

” Everyone believed that she was going to kill herself. But then, Miss. Emily was seen in buying a silver toilet set for men, with H. B. on each piece, and then she bought a complete men’s outfit. Everyone said “They are married,” referring to Miss. Emily and Homer Barron. When the streets were done, Homer left. Three days after Emily’s cousins had left, Homer was back in town; he was seen going in to Miss. Emily’s house through the Kitchen door at dusk. No one say Homer or Emily for some time. When she was next seen, she had grown fat, and her hair was turning gray.

Year after year, the people watched as the Negro man grew older and older. The only sign of Miss Emily was when she was seen through one of her downstairs windows. Then one day Miss. Emily died. The women and men came to pay respects, and to see what Miss. Emily had kept hidden for so many years. After she was buried, the town’s people went back to Emily’s house to look at the room which had not been used in over forty years. What they found would explain many things that had happened over the years. After the door was forced open, and the dust settled, they looked about the room.

On the dresser an outfit and tie were laid out, along with a pair of shoes. In the bed, they found Mr. Homer Barron. Finally, someone noticed that on the pillow next to Mr. Barron’s, someone had been sleeping on it. A head indention was in the pillow, along with a single strand of Miss. Emily’s gray hair. Miss. Emily “killed Homer largely to placate society, although that, in her deranged mind, also secured him as her lover forever (Dilworth n. p. ). ” Flannery O’Conner is another author who writes in the Southern Gothic style. His story “Good Country People” takes place in south.

He uses attributes such as lies, faithless ness, and deception to make his story Southern Gothic. The main character, Hulga, finds many things to be wrong with the world she lives in; she also finds many things wrong with mother. Hulga is a large girl with a crippled leg. She does not believe in God, and she uses her studies as an excuse to escape the world. Mrs. Hopewell tries to convince herself that Joy, who changed her name to Hulga, is still a child, even thought Hulga is thirty- two years old. “Nothing is perfect” and “that is life! ” where two of Mrs.

Hopewell’s favorite sayings (Good Country People n. p. ). Mrs. Hopewell and Mrs. Freeman, the landlord, talked about many things together. One thing that they both agreed on was “there aren’t enough good county people (O’Connor n. p. ). ” While Mrs. Hopewell was making dinner one night, a young man, by the name of Pointer, came to the Hopewell’s house to sell bibles. Hulga, who was atheist, was not to fond of the young man, but once Mrs. Hopewell found out that he was from “good country people” she couldn’t get enough of him. She even invited him in for dinner.

During dinner Pointer talked to Hulga about his family and where he was from and why he sold Bibles. After dinner, Hulga walked the young man out. The next day, Mrs. Freeman and Mrs. Hopewell were talking about the Bible salesman. Mrs. Freeman said she had seen Hulga talking to him at the fence, and wandered what she had said to the boy. Hulga over heard all this, and tried to make a scene by getting up and stumping “with about twice the noise that was necessary, into her room (O’Connor n. p. ). ” When Hulga got to her room, she went over the conversation that she had with Pointer the day before.

Hulga and Pointer had made plans to go on a picnic the next day. Hulga tried to act as if she did not really want to go, but she had other plans of her own. While she was in bed that night, she went over all the different ways that she could seduce Pointer. Hulga “imagined that the two of them walked [? ] until they came to the storage barn [? ]” and “that she very easily seduced him (O’Connor n. p. ). ” When she got up the next morning to met Pointer at the gate, he wasn’t there, she thought she had been stood up, and then she saw him he had been behind a bush.

He was there in the same dirty old clothes as yesterday, only this time he had on a hat. Hulga asked, “Why did you bring your Bibles? ” They just keep on walking though, until they got to the barn. Once inside the barn, they climbed up into the hay loft. Once they were both in the loft, Pointer started kissing Hulga; “When here glasses got in the way, he took them off of her and slipped them into his pocket (O’Connor n. p. ). ” Once Hulga returned his kisses he told her that he loved her, to this Hulga had no reply for many minutes.

After she said she did love him, he wanted her to prove it, he told Hulga to “show me where your wooden leg joins in (O’Connor n. p. ). ” Hulga couldn’t do this, not at first anyways. Finally after she had taken off her wooden leg, but when she wanted it back on, Pointer refused to give it back, instead he placed it in his Bible suitcase. Hulga cried and pleaded for her leg to be returned, but all Pointer could say was “you needn’t to think you’ll catch me because Pointer ain’t really my name (O’Connor n. p. )” Flannery O’Connor also wrote “A Good Man is Hard to Find.

” The story takes place in Georgia. In this story a grandmother and her family were deciding on where to go for the family vacation. The grandmother did not want to go to Florida, which is where the rest of the family wanted to go, she wanted to go to Tennessee. To try to convince the family not to go to Florida, she told them that she told them that she had just read on article about a prisoner, The Misfit, who had escaped form the Federal Penitentiary. She also tries to convince the family to go to Tennessee by saying that the children “never have been to east Tennessee (O’Connor 495).

” The family would not listen to her, and decided to go to Florida anyways. On the way down to Florida, the family stopped at a little diner to get lunch. While they were there the owner and his wife were talking about the Misfit as well. After leaving the dinner the grandmother remembered a house that she had once been to; it was an old Southern Plantation. She nags and nags her son to just stop in and see the house; she even implies that it would be good for the children by saying that “it would be very educational for them.

” Finally after her grandchildren pleaded their father to stop, her son finally decided to take a short drive down the driveway of the house. Once they had turned down the long dirt road, which went to the plantation, the grandmother suddenly remembered that the house she had been thinking of was not even in Georgia, but in Tennessee. Rather than telling her son that she had made a mistake, she just sat back and keeps it to herself. As they were driving down the driveway, the grandmother’s cat sprang form its resting spot and landed on her son’s shoulder.

The car went out of control, “the children where thrown to the floor and their mother [? ] was thrown out of the car; the old lady was thrown into the front seat (O’Connor 502). ” The children were ecstatic about being in a wreck. While the parents and grandmother while trying to recuperate form what had just happened, a truck pulled up. The grandmother had a feeling that she knew the man who stepped out of the truck. The man said he had seen the accident happen, and told one of the boys in the truck with him to go check and see if the car would still run.

That’s when the grandmother knew who the man was; it was The Misfit. “You’re the Misfit” exclaimed the grandmother. “Yes’m [? ] but it it would have been better for all of you, lady, if you hadn’t of reckernized me (O’Connor 503). ” The Misfit had no other choose, he told Bobby Lee to take the father and the boy and go back into the woods. The whole time, the grandmother was trying to talk The Misfit out of hurting her. She told the Misfit, “I just know you’re a good man (505). ” To this he replies, “Nome, I ain’t a good man (505). ” Then the sound of gunfire was heard coming form where Bobby Lee had taken her son and grandchild.

Next the Misfit had the mother and the other two children taken back into the woods. The grandmother still tried to talk her way out of being hurt, but failed to ask that her family be saved as well. Three more rounds of shots could be heard from the woods, the grandmother only talked faster to try to save her own life. She told him that Jesus would forgive him of his sins if only he would ask for it. Finally when the grandmother looked at The Misfit she said “Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children! ” to this The Misfit sprang back and shot the old land three times in the chest.

All of the stories that are discussed in this paper have many signs of being Southern Gothic literature. They show sings of characters that are extremely flawed, stingy, and uncaring. The stories are mysterious, bizarre, and ironic in the end. Southern Gothic authors use these types of traits in their stories to catch the reader’s attention, and to show aspects of the south that are not perfect. Southern Gothic literature is suspenseful and awkward, but is a very well known writing style. Works Cited Definition of southern gothic as provided by Wikipedia: .

Dilworth, Thomas “A Romance to Kill For: Homicidal Complicity in Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily” Studies in Short Fiction (36:3) 1999 251-62 O’Connor, Flannery. “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” Perrine’s Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense. 8th ed. Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle, 2001. 495- 509. O’Connor, Flannery. “Good Country People”. n. p. 31 Jan. 2006. . Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily” 2002 Perrine’s Literature: Structure, Sound, and Sense. 8th ed. Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle, 2001. 281- 289. Faulkner, William: William Faulkner on the web: . “Southern Gothic. ” McFLY. n. d. 5 Feb. 2006 .


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