How is Emily Grierson from "A Rose for Emily" similar to Louise Mallard from "The Story of an Hour".

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The character of Emily Grierson from "A Rose for Emily" and of Louise Mallard from "The Story of an Hour" suffer from very similar drawbacks and social limitations which have prevented them to fully grow and achieve their highest potential.

As women from a male-dominated society, both women are consumed by social expectations and limitations of so-called "decorum" that were placed upon women merely because of their gender. In the case of Emily Grierson, her Southern and formerly wealthy background led her family to instill in her somewhat ridiculous canons of behavior that ended up making a recluse out of her.

For example Emily's father was so classicist that he did not allow any man to court his daughter. Nobody was ever good enough. Similarly, he taught Emily to separate her family from the rest of society because they, at one time, are considered of better stock than the rest. More than thirty years later, society changed but Emily could not. Instead, she is left behind in a cloud of memories and broken dreams that render her elusive and alienated ways even more bizarre and enigmatic. As a result, she is left desperate for the basic needs of a woman: comfort, companionship, and safety. In the end she does the unthinkable and kills Homer Barron, her then-companion, at the first hint that he would leave. She lived with Homer's body as man and wife until the day of Emily's death. 

Louise Mallard is also socially limited. Mallard would seem at first sight as much more fortunate than Emily; after all, she is married and seems to live in a comfortable state. However, like Emily, Louise lives an emotional turmoil that originates in her mind, and in the way that she is raised. As a woman of her time, Louise is meant to be a wife, mother, and nurturer. She, however, does not feel it in her heart. In fact, Louise's tremendous desire for self-contemplation is so deep that her heart has weakened. When news of her husband's potential death arrive, she dies...not from the pain of his departure, but because she overjoyed in thinking that she would be close to the joys of freedom and the potential peace of solitude. As her husband arrives, and she realizes that he is not dead after all, she collapses. Like Emily, her life seems to slip from within her fingers, and she has no control over it.

Aside from the mental, social, and emotional limitations of both women, the two do not hold much more in common. Emily's family name disappeared with the Southern Reconstruction while Louise is a wife from the Parisian bourgeoisie, as can be supposed. Emily is much more lonely than Louise will ever be. Moreover, Emily's misery is intensified by the fact that she is still strong both physically and psychologically. Her deeds are the result of fear, but they are still barbaric.

Mallard is not at all a barbaric woman. She simply was born at the wrong place and time. However, the two women will always share the common trait of having absolutely no way to resolve their situations, for society wants them to remain at the bottom of the social lair.

Read the study guide:
The Story of an Hour

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