Compare and contrast literary elements in "A Rose for Emily" and "A Hunger Artist."

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are similar literary elements in "A Rose for Emily" and "A Hunger Artist" as well as some contrasting ones. A literary element is one kind of two literary devices. Literary elements are components of literature that are not optional: they must be part of a piece of literature. This contrasts with the second kind of literary device, that of literary techniques. These are optional and may be chosen from by the author at will. Literary elements, necessary parts of literature, include storyline, plot, conflict, structure, setting, tone, mood, characters, point of view, language, style, and theme. Contrast these to some literary techniques such as symbolism, irony, personification, allegory, allusion, alliteration, rhetoric, diction, foreshadowing, and flash backs.

The storyline in both short stories reflects a by-gone era. In "A Rose for Emily," the by-gone era is the opulent and regal era of the privileged Old South, which has given way to a more democratic and egalitarian city government.  In "A Hunger Artist," the by-gone era is when hunger artists and entertainment artists were popular and drew large crowds of onlookers who paid handsomely for the privilege of watching a hunger artist sit without eating or drinking--watching him fast. Both stories have a similarity in plot because the central character in each finds her-/himself at odds with society as a result of changing communal ideas clashing with  unchanged personal ideas, such as Emily's need to hang on to dead bodies and the hunger artist's need to continually fast.

The stories contrast with each other on the chronological order of events. "A Rose for Emily" is told with fragmented time, with nothing given in chronological order. "A Hunger Artist" unfolds according to a straight chronological string of events. Another contrast is that in "Emily," death is unrelentingly clung to, as shown in the last scenes of the story, whereas in "Artist," death, when it comes the the artist, is unhesitatingly buried and done away with. Another contrast is that just before death overtakes him, the hunger admits that society was right all along whereas Emily herself dies staunchly holding onto her oppositional view about relationships continuing past death. The themes of the stories thus also contrast. The theme brought forward in "A Hunger Artist" is the freedom of robust life while the theme of "A Rose for Emily is the decay of life.

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A Rose for Emily

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