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For "A Rose for Emily" and "The Yellow Wallpaper," write some reflections on the...

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icampo | (Level 1) Honors

Posted July 8, 2010 at 7:47 AM via web

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For "A Rose for Emily" and "The Yellow Wallpaper," write some reflections on the characters and their relationships.

William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily"

Charlotte Perkins Gillman's "The Yellow Wallpaper"

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 8, 2010 at 11:46 AM (Answer #1)

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In William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," Emily is a "monument" of the town, one whom the residents have viewed from afar and known mainly through rumor.  On the other hand, Charlotte Perkins Gillman's main character is also the narrator--albeit unnamed and somewhat unreliable--so the reader does become acquainted with her more than one does with Emily.  Nevertheless, there are similarities between the women.

Both women are victims of a patriarchal age in which fathers and husbands have the final say on matters, with little regard to the woman's feelings.  For instance, Emily's father turns away her suitors, just as John, the narrator's husband, summarily dismisses her wishes to have a room downstairs that open onto a piazza and has roses over the window, instead forcing her to stay in a dismal room with paper of "a repellent color," stripped off in great patches around the head of her bed.  Since she is of a very artistic nature, this paper of such a horrid color with unsymmetrical patter is absolutely torturous to her as is the "unharmonious furniture." Thus, the narrator is very repressed both by her environment and by her husband who adds to her misery by threatening to send her to Dr. Weir Mitchell. 

Likewise, Emily, too, lives under censure and the watchfully, critical eyes of the townspeople who criticize her driving through town with a Northerner named Homer Barron; later, the relatives from Alabama come to talk with Emily.  When there is an odor emanating from the house, the townspeople ask the old mayor to speak to Emily.  Then, in a passage in which the narrator tells of Emily's breaking down after her father's death as she refused to have him buried, the observation is made that

We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will.

So, too, does Gilman's unnamed narrator "cling to that which had robbed her" by trying desperately to please her husband.  But, imprisoned by him in his repressive control, the narrator seeks to free her soul by freeing the woman in the wallpaper, her unconscious self.  So, too, does Emily frees her unconscious self; She finally makes certain that Homer, this final suitor, does not leave her, thus defeating the memory of her father who vanquished all the others.

Both repressed in a patriarchal environment, Emily and Gilman's narrator "cling to that which had robbed" them by freeing their unconscious self in this act of clinging.  Emily clings to the suitor she never could keep in an effort of self-assertion; Gilman's narrator clings to the hanging patches of wallpaper and pulls them in order to free her unconscious self from insanity in its great depression.  Their desperate acts are acts of self-assertion in the stultifying environment of the patriarchal age in which they live.

 

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