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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). 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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"The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin and A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner." 123HelpMe.com. 28 May 2015