Elements of a Southern Atmosphere in O'Connor's "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" and Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily"

Topics: Southern United States, Flannery O'Connor, William Faulkner Pages: 5 (1868 words) Published: May 6, 2013
Georgia Crick
Eng 102 Davis
Short Story Essay Revision
May 6, 2013
Elements of a Southern Atmosphere in O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” and Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”
Though the short stories “A Rose for Emily” and “A Good Man is Hard to Find” differ in plot, theme, voice, and many other aspects, both contain similar characters and settings. The authors of these highly acclaimed Southern Gothic works, have skillfully and eloquently created intricate characters and imagery that portray many elements of Southern life. Flannery O’Connor’s, “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” tells of the tragic events that take place during a family’s road trip to Tennessee, which ultimately ends in their unsightly demise at the hands of a notorious serial killer. Equally as morbid, William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily,” takes place following the death of well-to-do woman Emily Grierson, as a town recounts her bizarre and insane behavior throughout her lifetime, and makes a gruesome discovery of a rotting corpse in her bedroom. Throughout both stories, O’Connor and Faulkner employ the use of various literary techniques, and successfully create typically southern atmospheres.

Throughout “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” Flannery O’Connor consistently uses the physical setting as a means of conveying a Southern atmosphere. In the opening passages, it is revealed that the family is traveling from Atlanta, Georgia to east Tennessee, communicating that the story takes place in a Southern region. O’Connor mentions at several points the locations of the family’s journey through the southern states, writing, “Bailey and the children’s mother and the baby sat in front and they left Atlanta at eight forty-five” (406), and the Grandmother describes her native state of Georgia, saying, “Tennessee has the mountains and Georgia has the hills” (O’Connor 406). Also, at the beginning of their journey, the family passes cotton fields and a plantation, scenery which is inherently Southern. O’Connor describes the scene as, “a large cotton field with five or six graves fenced in the middle of it, like a small island. ‘Look at the graveyard,’ the grandmother said, pointing it out. ‘That was the old family burying ground. That belonged to the plantation’” (407). Cotton fields and plantations were commonplace throughout the old south, and are indicative of Southern culture. Historically, cotton was one of the South’s most crucial economic resources, and the South was heavily dependent on large plantations and slavery to produce this highly valued crop. Later along their route, the family stops “at The Tower for barbeque sandwiches” (O’Connor 407). The Tower is described as “part stucco and part wood filling station and dance hall set in a clearing outside of Timothy. A fat man named Red Sammy Butts ran it and there were signs stuck here and there on the building and for miles up and down the highway saying, TRY RED SAMMY’S FAMOUS BARBECUE” (O’Connor 407). O’Connor’s mention of barbecue, a classic Southern cuisine, and detailed description of the restaurant, help to create a deeper sense of immersion into Southern culture.

Much like O’Connor, William Faulkner also heavily emphasizes details of the setting in an effort to depict an atmosphere representative of the South. Set in the fictional town of Jefferson, Mississippi, “A Rose for Emily” begins almost immediately by providing imagery of Emily Grierson’s grand antebellum home, which Faulkner describes as “a big squarish frame house that had once been white, decorated with cupolas and spires and scrolled balconies in the heavily lightsome style of the seventies” (244). He then elaborates, writing, “garages and cotton gins had encroached and obliterated even the august names of that neighborhood; only Miss Emily’s house was left, lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagon and the gasoline pumps” (244). Both Emily’s house and the surrounding cotton gins are characteristics that are...

Cited: Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily.” Kirszner and Mandell 244-250. Kirszner, Laurie a and Stephen Mandell, eds. Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing. 8th ed. Boston: Wadsworth, 2013. Print.
O’Connor, Flannery. “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” Kirszner and Mandell 405-416.
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