Southern Gothic Short Stories

Southern Gothic literature Short Stories
Southern Gothic Short Stories

Southern Gothic literature contains some of the elements of gothic fiction such as eerie settings and mood, decay, madness, the grotesque, unexplained (possibly supernatural) occurrences, death and violence. Additionally, they’re set in the American South and often deal with race and class. I hope you find something dark and riveting here.

Southern Gothic Literature: Short Stories

“The Boarded Window” by Ambrose Bierce

A man who lives in the wilderness prepares his wife’s body for burial. There is an incident that night, which the narrator claims explains the mystery of why his cabin had a boarded window. (Summary)

This story can be read in the preview of 100 Great American Short Stories(80% into preview)

“A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner

A Southern spinster, Emily Grierson, has died. She had been a recluse, so the townspeople are curious about her and her house. The narrator recounts episodes from her life. (Summary & Analysis)

This story can be read in the preview of A Rose for Emily and Other Stories. (18% in)

“The Perfect Buyer” by Jeff Abbott

Paul is looking at a run-down house in North Carolina. His wife, Catherine, is a famous actress who’s trying to get her career back on track. This is Catherine’s home town and the house has ties to her family, the Mannings, and the Pallisters, with whom they had a long-standing feud. With the house’s bad reputation and the amount of work it needs, Paul thinks it would be a perfect location for a renovation show starring his wife.

This story can be read in the sample of Dead Ends: Stories from the Gothic South (18% in).

“A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor

An extended family is headed to Florida for a vacation. The grandmother wants to go to Tennessee instead, so she talks about an escaped murderer—The Misfit—who is suspected to be on his way to Florida. Despite her efforts, her son Bailey is set on going to Florida.

This story can be read in the preview of A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories. (Kindle preview)

“Good Country People” by Flannery O’Connor

Mrs. Hopewell is a widow who runs her farm. Her daughter, Joy, has an artificial leg from a hunting accident as a child. Mrs. Hopewell is a Christian; Joy is an atheist with a Ph.D. Mrs. Hopewell likes “good country people”, like her hired tenants, the Freemans. She and Mrs. Freeman like exchanging platitudes. Joy is introverted and believes she has life figured out. One day, a traveling Bible salesman calls on Mrs. Hopewell. (Summary & Analysis)

Many of Flannery O’Connor’s stories are Southern Gothic.

“Plant Growin’ Problems” by Larry Brown

Jerry Barlow stops at the side of the road. He has a hoe and a jug of plant food with him. He waits a while; it doesn’t seem like anyone has followed him. About four hundred yards in, he has a patch of grass with fifteen plants that need tending. He doesn’t notice the boot tracks on the trail.

This story can be read in the preview of Tiny Love: The Complete Stories (60% in).

“Daughter” by Erskine Caldwell

The Sheriff locks up Jim in the town jail. Lots of people come by to get the details, asking him if it was an accident. He says his daughter was hungry, and she had been a lot lately. (Summary)

“The Ballad of the Sad Café” by Carson McCullers

Miss Amelia was a rich woman, having inherited a store from her father. She also operated a still that produced the best liquor in the county. She was solitary, and most of her days were the same, apart from a ten-day stretch when she was married. Things changed when Miss Amelia was thirty. Late one night, a hunchbacked stranger, barely over four feet tall, came to her store. He said he was looking for Miss Amelia because they’re related. He sat on the steps and cried. The few onlookers had no doubt Miss Amelia would run this stranger off her property and out of town.

Some of this novella can be read in the preview of The Ballad of the Sad Café: And Other Stories(18% into preview)

“A Worn Path” by Eudora Welty

An elderly African-American woman, Phoenix Jackson, walks through the Mississippi forest to get into town. She encounters many obstacles along the way.

“I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down” by William Gay

Old man Meechum gets out of the taxi at his farm house and immediately sees that people are living there. Meechum has been away at a nursing home for almost two months. Lonzo Choat has rented the place from Meechum’s son, Paul, for ninety days with an option to buy. Meechum is very angry and tries to figure out how to get his place back.

“The Paperhanger” by William Gay

The doctor’s wife is home with her four-year-old daughter, Zeneib, while workers are renovating the place. She has a hostile exchange with the paperhanger before leaving the room. She goes to her car in the driveway and calls Zeneib.

“Time and Again” by Breece D’J Pancake

The narrator is called out to plow roads by his coworker, Mr. Weeks. He hears his hogs making noise, and thinks how he would like to rest and just let the hogs get old. He picks up a young man who is hitchhiking.

“The Child by Tiger” by Thomas Wolfe

The narrator relates events that took place in his home town twenty-five years earlier. In the town lived a Negro man, Dick Prosser, who worked for the father of one of his young friends. Dick was a former soldier, very tidy, an excellent worker, religious, a crack shot, and he addressed the boys with respect. One day the boys entered Dick’s room and found a surprise that he was planning for the town.

I hope you found some great Southern Gothic short stories here.