What are the similarities between the short stories "A Rose For Emily" by William Faulkner and "Eveline" by James Joyce?I am in a ENC 1102 class and I do not understand what are...

What are the similarities between the short stories "A Rose For Emily" by William Faulkner and "Eveline" by James Joyce?

I am in a ENC 1102 class and I do not understand what are the similarities between the two short stories.

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ssengupta eNotes educator| Certified Educator

WOW! This is a very interesting question. At first, I, too, thought, what a wierd comparison. But slowly, as I mused upon this question, it began to dawn on me. So here are some of my thoughts.

Both are stories about lonely women.

In Joyce's story, Eveline is a quiet girl, deprived of love or affection, the caretaker of a home sans warmth and paternal care. She has to take care of everything: cook, sow, tidy-up; and when the evening invaded the avenue (to quote Joyce himself), stand forlorn at her window. Like a later day, Lady of Shallot, Eveline saw life outside from inside.

In Faulkner's Emily ( a name that also starts with an E like Joyce's protagonist) is also lonely; in fact, she is more than lonely. She is alone! And alone, she goes about her own life, completely shutting out the outside world -- the Soul selects her own society! We go about reading the story, muttering to herself, what a wierd woman she is, etc, until we discover, to our alarm, that she has been nourishing the dead body of her husband!

Evelyn finally gets a chance to end her solitary, utterly domestic and boring life, by running away with a man she had befriended by her window-side. But she can't. In the last minute, the crowded steamer, the hustle and bustle, the noise, the smell, all become too much for her. She wrenches her hand away from the man and runs back -- home!

Emily is the quiet, upright, taut, silent woman who insists on her dignity, notwithstanding the ghoulish behavior. The police come and remove the body; but Emily is the same: unrepantant, haughty, completely out of touch with society.

What strikes me about your question is how two great writers -- Joyce and Faulkner -- were able to communicate to us about how society can have devastating effects on people, particularly women. Both Eveline and Emily are products of their times. They are expected to be dutiful, obedient ladies, doing what society expects of them. Eveline does, and at what cost. Emily does, too, but only apparently. Evline looks after her father, a no good man who just lives off his daughter's labor. Emily is a dutiful, loving wife -- except that the husband she insists on taking care of has been dead long ago! In Freudian terms both are passive aggressive, Emily far more than Eveline.

I hope this helps.


mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both the lives Emily of Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" and Joyce's  "Eveline" have been stultified by the rigid patriarchs who dominate their families.  In Joyce's story, for instance, the repressed Eveline is little more than a servant in her own home, caring for her brother since her mother, also abused by the father, has died. In addition, "she always gave her entire wages" to her father who then squanders the money.  But, although her life is hard, Eveline "did not find it a wholly undesirable life."

Likewise, Emily of Faulkner's story, whose father chased off suitors and dominated her life, is so repressed that she, too, remains in this stultified life.  For, after her father dies, she stands firmly before the crayon portrait of her father, dressed in black with her father's gold watch handing into her belt.  Rigid, Emily tells her old servant "Show these gentlemen out."  After "vanquishing" these men as Mr. Grierson vanquished her suitors long ago, Emily comes out very little, clinging to her old life, which for her is also not "wholly undesirable."

When Emily does attempt to break from the customs of her old life, things obviously do not develop as she expects. Still single, Emily, like Eveline, seeks love.  But, her relationship with Homer Barron, a man of questionable propriety as is Eveline's sailor, does not work out. Not wishing to be ridiculed by the community and lose respect, Emily acts in an abnormal way and poisons Homer. 

While Eveline, too, considers a new life in which "People would treat her with respect then," she, also, loses its possibility.  In a moment of weakness and subjection to her old life, Eveline terminates her relationship with the sailor:  "Her eyes gave him no sign of love or farewell or recognition. Trapped in patriarchal worlds, neither Emily nor Eveline can break free.

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A Rose for Emily

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