List three primary topics that can be discussed in length with "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner and "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

“A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner and “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman offer two women who lose sight of reality. Each character must face her demons alone. Although there are many signs along the way toward their loss of sanity, the people in their lives ignore them.

What topics could be used to write about “A Rose for Emily”?

1.     Miss Emily’s Isolation

In this topic, the writer would examine the responsibility of the townspeople in not ignoring the signs of her deterioration into insanity. What were the signs? How does isolation impact her? The townspeople knew about the upstairs room and did nothing.  What was there thinking? They covered up the smell.  Why?

2.     The Insanity of Miss Emily Grierson

Throughout the story, Emily slowly succumbs to the insanity that was found in her family.  What were the signs? What did she do that proved her madness? How did her father’s complete dominance impact her life? Was her life filled with delusion?

3.      The Southern Gothic story of “A Rose for Emily”

Define a southern gothic. How did Faulkner approach this type of story? What aspects of this story fit the southern gothic type of story? What antisocial behaviors are exhibited in the story?

What topics are possible for “The Yellow Wallpaper”?

1.     The Disassociation from Reality of the Narrator in “The Yellow Wallpaper”

The essay would examine the reasons for the narrator’s moving toward her removal from day-to-day life.  Why does she choose to eliminate the people in her lives from her inner reality?  When she is faced with people, objects, or situations that seem normal and natural, in truth, they are actually fantastic and oppressive.  If she had been moved to the room that she wanted without the wallpaper, would the result have been the same? Describe the cure and its failure for the narrator.

Discuss the failure of John who completely let his wife deteriorate into insanity. Why does he forbid her to use her imagination? Explain the cure and its expected outcome.  Why did the cure not work?

2.     Explain the relationship between the woman in the wallpaper and the narrator.

Through watching so much at night, when it changes so, I have finally found out. The front pattern DOES move—and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it! Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over. Then in the very bright spots she keeps still, and in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard. And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern—it strangles so;

What was the fascination of the narrator to the wallpaper? What is the importance of the yellow stains on the narrator’s clothing? Initially the narrator does not like the woman’s efforts to get out of the wallpaper and escape.  Why does she intend on tying her up?

One topic that applies to both stories is the idea of the subjugation of women.  Emily’s life was forever altered by the men in her life.  The narrator in “The Yellow Wallpaper” has to follow the wishes of her husband. This topic would include both stories.

There are many more interesting topics for discussion.  Choose a topic that is interesting and the story has a lot of supporting information which can be used to support it.

Read the study guide:
The Yellow Wallpaper

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