A Comparison Essay of Emily Grierson from “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner
and Louise Mallard from “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin
American southern writer, William Faulkner (1897-1962) wrote many short stories, novels, essays, screenplays, poetry and a play. He is mainly known for his novels and short stories such as A Rose for Emily (1930), Light in August (1932) and Barn Burning (1939). Faulkner received many awards including the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1950, for which he became the only Mississippi born winner. He also received the National Book Award for his Collected Stories (1951), National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize Award for A Fable (1955) and a Pulitzer Prize for The Reivers (1963). Faulkner said to be of one of the most prominent writers of the twentieth century. Kate Chopin (1850-1904) published three novels, a play and almost a 100 short stories during the 1890’s. She was an American southern writer that was known as an interpreter of New Orleans culture because she liked to write stories about people she had known in Louisiana. Some of Chopin’s stories she is known for are Desiree’s Baby (1893), The Story of an Hour (1894) and The Awakening (1899). Chopin was a forerunner to feminism with her view on sexuality and freedom of women. In the story, A Rose for Emily, the protagonist Emily Grierson was controlled by her father and what society expected of her. After her father’s death she became lonely and isolated herself in her home until she fell in love with a Yankee named Homer. To keep Homer for herself, Emily murdered him with poison and placed his body in an upstairs bedroom where she slept by him until her death 10. The Story of an Hour’s protagonist is Louise Mallard who is married to Brentley Mallard. The story begins with Mrs. Mallard receiving the news of her husband’s death in a train accident. She is distraught at first but once she is alone in her room she has an epiphany that she is finally free to do as she wants. While descending down the stairs her husband enters the house unknowing of the accident. Louise died on the stairs of a heart attack from seeing her husband. Emily and Louise both lived during a time of the Napoleonic Code but neither character wanted to conform to what society dictated causing them to die of a broken heart.
Emily Grierson lived under her controlling father’s rule where he had “driven away” “all the young men” until his death not allowing her to marry (Faulkner 4). She struggled against being dominated by a man even after falling in love with Homer. Emily couldn’t handle being controlled again and taking a chance on losing Homer so she killed him and kept him with her until she died “The body had apparently once lain in the attitude of an embrace, but now the long sleep that outlasts love, that conquers even the grimace of love, had cuckolded him” (Faulkner 8). Likewise, Louise Mallard was described as “Young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength” (Chopin 235) because she felt imprisoned by her marriage. She was excited that the ties she had to her husband had been broken by his death “There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature (Chopin 235) and she would be able to be free.
Emily was an unmarried woman which went against what society expected “So when she got to be thirty and was still single, we were not pleased exactly” (Faulkner 3). She didn’t care that she had become the town’s gossip “She carried her head high enough–even when we believed that she was fallen. It was as if she demanded more than ever the recognition of her dignity as the last Grierson” (Faulkner 5) demanding the respect even though she was a woman. In the same manner, Louise didn’t carry on as society thought a widow should when her sister asked about her “Go away. I am not making myself ill.” No; she was drinking in a very elixir of life through that open window (Chopin 235). She was excited about being on her own; not being dependent on a man “But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome” (Chopin 235).
Emily Grierson lived a long life up into her late 70’s but died a lonely woman “And so she died. Fell ill in the house filled with dust and shadows, with only a doddering Negro man to wait on her. We did not even know she was sick (Faulkner 7). Once Homer was dead she never dated again. Choosing to live her life loving a corpse and dying with a lonesome heart “Then we noticed that in the second pillow was the indentation of a head. One of us lifted something from it, and leaning forward, that faint and invisible dust dry and acrid in the nostrils, we saw a long strand of iron-gray hair (Faulkner 8). Moreover, Louise Mallard had heart problems “Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble” (Chopin 234) which led to her untimely death. Even though “When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease–of the joy that kills” (Chopin 236); she actually died of a broken heart knowing that she would never be free.
In short, Emily and Louise were both strong woman who went against what society deemed appropriate. They lived in a time were women had no rights or position and were to be dominated by men. Both of their personalities and lifestyles had been shaped and molded by the men in their lives. Emily and Louise both lived during a time of the Napoleonic Code but neither character wanted to conform to what society dictated causing them to die of a broken heart.
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