I was really fascinated with the stories that we have read in class because of the unique concepts and ideas of the authors. Of these stories, I found Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” and William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” especially captivating. Although both stories have a woman as the protagonist, the authors presented their main character in very different ways. Thus, it would be interesting to discover how both stories are similar with and different from each other. To compare and contrast both stories, I decided to use a feminist perspective. First, I would be analyzing “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin.
The story was written in 1894. It was a time when men were encouraged to join the war and leave the women and children at home. Mrs. Mallard, the main character, was one of those women. She stayed at home and patiently waited for his husband, Brently Mallard, to come back after the war. During those hard times, this was mostly the situation of women—waiting while they took care of the children and the house. Although Mrs. Mallard did not have any children to take care of, she just stayed at home given that she has a heart ailment. Thus, it is evident that women were only given limited obligations due to their gender.
Moreover, the story, did not mention Mrs. Mallard’s occupation other than that she was the wife of Brently Mallard. From a feminist point of view, it could be inferred that Mrs. Mallard was hindered by society to act the way she wanted. In the story, Mrs. Mallard’s character was clearly repressed by social norms. This was very evident in the scene where she entered the room crowded with people upon hearing the news of her husband’s death. In this room filled with noisy people, she acted like what society expected of her— to cry and weep because of the death of her husband.
However, when she retired in her own room, her aura changed. There was optimism in the way she viewed everything inside her room, which was apparent in these lines: She could see in the open square before her house the tops of the trees that were all aquiver with the new spring of life. The delicious breathe of rain was in the air… In the street below a peddler was crying his wares. The notes of a distant song which some one was singing reached her faintly… There were patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds… (Chopin, 1894, p. ).
The aforementioned scene is also marked by symbolisms. For instance, the people that congested the house could be interpreted as the representation of the repressive society that she belonged to. On the other hand, her own room could be the symbol of her self, her privacy, and her escape where she could be what ever she wanted—to be her natural self. The atmosphere of the scene and the aura of the story shifted from grief and loss to calm and relief. It was clear that Mrs. Mallard felt the freedom that she was longing for.
Perhaps, being married to Mr. Mallard had compelled her to assume a role deemed by the society of her time as appropriate for a woman. I do see Louise (her own individual self without Brently Mallard) as an adventurous woman who wanted to experience and discover the world on her own. Unfortunately, she had to get married as dictated by societal norms, even though this meant giving up her dreams and freedom. Thus, hearing that the person holding her back in achieving the dream that she wanted was already gone created liberation and signified a new beginning for her—an opportunity to be independent.
In contrast, in the short story “A Rose for Emily,” the protagonist of the story (Emily), desired the opposite of what Louise wanted. While Louise longed for freedom, Emily craved for attachment. In the beginning of the story, Emily was very dependent towards her father. Everything she needed and wanted was available because her family was affluent, as her father, Mr. Grierson, loaned money for the town. However, after her father’s death, Emily became poor and lost almost everything. The only thing that was left for her was their house.
As she relied heavily on her father, she did not exactly know what to do. She did not have other family members in town and the only person that took care of her was the Negro who was often seen carrying a basket going to the market. Emily did not take charge of her life or work in order to have a normal lifestyle like the townspeople. This sense of dependence on others and helplessness without them could be attributed to the way she was raised by her father, which is manifested in this line: “The Griersons held themselves a little too high for what they really are” (Faulkner, 1931, p. ).
The townspeople pitied her because she was alone. At the age of thirty years old, she was still not married which was not the typical situation for a woman of her time. I believe that she wanted to be like everyone else—to become a mother and a wife. Therefore, when Homer Baron came, she took the opportunity and got to know him well. Homer Baron was a Northerner and a laborer which was very far from what the town expected Emily to be dating. In my own point of view, Emily’s only hope to have a normal life was this man.
I see Emily as one of those women who aspire to have a family of their own. She wanted a happy family and a man that she could depend on, considering it was the way she was raised by her father. During the time when the story was written, norms and limitations were enforced upon females the minute they were born. These norms were brought by society which set parameters of what was right and wrong. However, it also set restriction for females. Although I have nothing against rules, the norms of the society during the time of these women did not provide women enough freedom to do what they wanted.
The women’s role was also limited to housework and child-bearing. This restriction by society explains the situation of Emily and Louise. Emily was pressured by society to be normal which, after a while, she also desired. She wanted to conform to the societal norms because she had always been the “awkward one. ” She needed the affirmation that she was like everyone else, not like what her father desired her to be. On the other hand, Louise did not want to conform to what society demanded of her. Rather, she wanted to run away from everything and to be free.
In the end, both of the characters died. The meaning of their death can be translated in many ways. Louise died because of a heart attack, which was caused by the arrival of her husband. Her death could be interpreted as a sign of freedom. In death, she became totally free of any responsibilities that she was trying to avoid. In another light, her death could be construed as the demise of her momentary freedom. On the contrary, Emily’s death could be inferred as the end of her dreams and hopes of being accepted by the society.