The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin and A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner


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Restraints of Society

Since the beginning of time, women have been treated as second class

citizens. Therefore, women were forced to face many problems and because of

this women were repressed. During the post Civil War era, the Napoleonic Code

stated that women were controlled by their husbands and couldn’t freely do their

own will without the authority of their husband. Each character longs for freedom

in a different way, but because of the men in their lives they are unable to make

their own life decisions. In both stories, “The Story of an Hour,” by Kate Chopin

and “A Rose for Emily,” by William Faulkner the use of literary elements such as

foreshadowing, symbolism, and the significant meaning of the titles are essential

in bringing the reader to an unexpected and ironic conclusion. From the

background of both authors, who are from the South, we can conclude how they

could describe the situations that they faced such as political and social

presumptions and/or problems especially for women at that time.

In the short stories "The Story of an Hour," by Chopin and "A Rose for

Emily," by Faulkner, the main characters are both female. Both women in these

stories were bound by what society expected of them. Each woman in different

ways tries unsuccessfully to gain her freedom. Emily and Mrs. Mallard live in

male-dominated societies, and none of the women were free to do or be what

they wanted. Louise ("The Story of an Hour") and Emily ("A Rose for Emily") not

only feel but live the demands that society and their family have placed on them.

In Faulkner’s "A Rose for Emily," the title character felt imprisoned by her

life and looked for a way to gain her freedom. Emily must endure her fathers

never ending denial that there is any man suitable for his daughter. Emily was left

alone after her father died, and the townspeople thought that some of her kin

should come to her. Instead Emily lived by herself with only a black male servant.

Mr. Grierson, the father of Emily, prevented her from dating men because he

thought they were not good enough for her. After the death of Emily's father she

decided to date Homer Barron: "a foreman, a Yankee-a big, dark, ready man, a

Northerner, a day laborer," in order to have company and a man that will share

with her his time and will care for her just as her father did (470).

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When Emily

realized that "Homer was not the marrying man" and that he sometimes paid

more attention to go and drink with his young male companions at the Elks lodge

rather than going out with her, she felt that Homer will eventually leave her

(471). Emily decided to do something in order to not lose him. She bought some

rat poison and gave it to Homer. The Yankee died and she kept his body for over

fifty years in the upstairs room where no one would be able to find it. Emily had

already lost her father; the only male figure she had in her early life. Now she did

not wanted to lose Homer. She thought that the only way of having him by her

side for the rest of her life was by killing him and staying with the corpse.

She closes herself up in the house, never going out and never letting

sunlight seep into the house. The black servant would do all the work, and then if

she needed anything from town, he would pick it up for her. The townspeople did

not think this was proper behavior either. Emily struggles against what society

thought was proper and right for a lady to do and eventually only gained some

kind of freedom by shutting out the rest of the world. And in the end of the story

when they have already taken her body away the people find a single grey hair

on the pillow next to where Homer was laying.

Like Emily, the main character in "The Story of an Hour," Mrs. Mallard,

wants to be free because she feels bound by her marriage and her husband.

When Louise Mallard is told of her husband's death, she "opened and spread

her arms," because she saw the years ahead of her as her own (450). Louise,

overcome with relief at her new-found freedom, ventures out to face the world,

not as a wife, not as a Mrs, but as herself. She was trapped in her husband's life,

free in his death, and then trapped again when he is found to be alive. She feels

oppressed by her husband and marriage, and her reaction to Mr. Mallard's death

may show that she thinks of her marriage as binding. The "patches of blue sky"

represent the life that Mrs. Mallard sees for herself after the death of her husband

(450). The storm is ending outside the window, and the storm within Louise

Mallard is also ending. Louise's sister and a friend to her husband fear that the

news of her husband's death will kill her, but they are utterly and completely

mistaken, it makes her feel more alive then ever.

Brently Mallard's death symbolizes the end of all restraints on Louise.

"She would live for herself," and that was all that mattered to her (450). This was

her escape from society and all its confinements. "...a feverish triumph in her

eyes...she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory,” (451). Her

freedom, however, is short-lived when she sees her husband walk through the

door. Society believes that she is overcome with such joy that the shock has

taken her life. Chopin makes clear that it may instead be the loss of her new

found freedom that stopped her heart from beating.

Throughout history society has played a major role in the nurturing of its

people. Society can cultivate and have strong influences on the choices and

decisions of families and communities. Often society becomes the family and is

the community in which one grows and learns the ways of life. Society can also

constrain and bind a person to its own views of life, morals and status. Some

might even say that society creates a person, knows what one is thinking and

why, and how that person will choose to act accordingly. The characters of "The

Story of an Hour" and "A Rose for Emily show how two perceivably delicate and

fragile women, Louise and Emily, have been lost in a world created by society,

cultured to its properness, constrained by its demands and expectations, and in

the end, mistaken by its perceptions.


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