The Southern Gothic: A Rose for Emily

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SWBAT analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact.

Big Idea

A rose is not just a rose: Emily's dreams wither along with her perception of reality.


This lesson is based on plot; therefore, it is imperative that students understand the basic makeup or construction of plot in a short story.  To ensure that all students have been exposed to plot, we do a mock activity in which they have to plot a fairy tale.  "A Rose for Emily" can be very difficult for students because we start off with Emily's death and then the story progresses backwards before culminating with a grotesque revelation at her death.  Students are usually aghast at the ending, but it's all good.  Sometimes I have some explaining to do, but it really allows them to take word choice and make an inference.  In this case, the inference is a bit bizarre.

Plot Marks the Spot

15 minutes

Before we read "A Rose for Emily," I want to make sure that students are familiar with the elements of plot.  Since the short story is not told in chronological order, it is imperative that students can identify the rising action, climax, etc.  To practice plot, I ask students to think of their favorite fairy tale or children's story.  I have them complete a plot form that shows the story's progression in chronological order.  Students then use a scissors to cut out the different plot sections.  They will have a piece of paper with the exposition, rising action, etc.  They are to fold the pieces of paper and place them in a cup. Students will pick the plot events from the cup and re-write the story in a random plot order.  The trick is to weave it together so that it still makes sense.

I have attached a video to reinforce how plot is essential to a story.

Again, my purpose is for students to see how a non-chronological order can create suspense and an interesting twist.  Plus, there are plenty of opportunities to piece in foreshadowing to add to the suspense. 

Lastly, students will write a short reflection comparing the two versions.  How did the order of plot affect the aesthetic quality of the story?

Notes: The Southern Gothic and William Faulkner

10 minutes

In this lesson, I am trying to point out how the basic elements of Gothic literature are morphed into negative aspects of Southern society in the Southern Gothic.  I show students a PowerPoint pertaining to the Southern Gothic.  Specifically, students will see how basic elements to the traditional Gothic are traded out for characters indigenous to the South.  For example, a monster in a traditional Gothic work would be portrayed as a racist drunk as in the case of Mr. Ewell from To Kill a Mockingbird.

Prediction: Word Splash

15 minutes

To activiate prior knowledge and to ignite some interest in the story, I will have students refer to a word splash that I will project from a PowerPoint.  Students will write a paragraph that includes all the words in the splash.  The purpose of this activity is for students to predict what they think will happen in the story based on connotations of the words and phrases in the word splash.  Following the completion of the story, we will look back at our predictions and see where students went awry or where they were right on target.  I will inquire as to why they predicted the way they did.

Round Robin Read: "A Rose for Emily"

30 minutes

I will ask the class to help me read "A Rose for Emily."  My preferred method to keep all students engaged is to pick popsicle sticks to select "volunteers."  As we read, students will complete guided reading questions.  Periodically, I will check for understanding and ask students to offer answers to questions.  Again, the guided reading questions are designed to keep students on task.  Depending on the chemistry of the class, I sometimes pair them up and have them answer a few questions.  If it is a more challenging class, we stop and answer in a whole-class forum.