A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner and The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman are two stories that affected American literature in the late 1800s and early 1900s, respectively. Both stories have a lot in common, as well as some differences. Both are called feminist literature since they deal with female concerns and advocate for women’s rights, such as social equality, and their position in American literature. Readers gain a glimpse of the predicament of women and the fight for social equality via authors such as Faulkner and Gilman.
Marriage Inequalities of the Time
Both short tales show gender-related challenges that women experience, such as living in a male-dominated culture and being viewed as a woman who is reliant on a man. Both tales present female characters as subjects of males; William Faulkner’s narrative depicts Emily as a subject of her father, who appears to have complete influence over her life, including the individuals her daughter associates with. He rejects Emily’s friends and denies her the right to associate with them. Similarly, in Gilman’s short tale, the narrator’s husband isolates her and limits her to the grounds of their farmhouse, as the narrator recounts how she was restricted to her bedroom most of the time (Gilman 18). As a result, the two stories demonstrate how patriarchal American society was until feminism intervened to alter the tendency.
The second similarity is, at least somewhat, tied to the first one, as both stories depict their heroines in a state of deep psychological and emotional discomfort. The two are unable to lead fruitful, happy lives due to both societal limitations and their mental disorders that further intensify their dependence on men and overall vulnerability. When analyzing the works, one might think of the way psychiatry operated at the time of its publication, with punishment-focused methods being considered the norm. Not only are the characters mentally disturbed, but they are also effectively separated from even a glimpse of hope of receiving help and support from established institutions.
Symbolism: the Roses and the Colors
A third part of the foundation of similarities between the two heroines is the distinct originality with which they were written. Many readers are drawn to the use of symbolism to transmit the intended message to the readers of both works by the respective authors. The writers of the two short tales skillfully constructed the titles of their works to include some type of symbolism. For example, many people think of yellow as a happy, cheery hue, but in Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, the color has a different meaning. The yellow wallpaper is perceived by the narrator as an odor, a stinky, irritating hue that has soaked the entire room.
The narrator becomes disturbed at the sight of the wallpaper, and the hue of the paper reminds her of a yellow odor. Faulkner’s narrative, too, employs the rose as a symbol of the sorrow in the story, as shown in the title. Emily’s entire existence has been a tragedy in and of itself, as seen by her lack of freedom, her debilitating psychiatric condition, and her untimely death (Faulkner 22). By locking herself away, she also becomes compound to a limited and guarded space that isolates her from everyone Emily knows.
Differences in Freedom of Will
However, when analyzing this aspect of the two stories, the main and rather glaring difference between them becomes glaringly obvious. Where the nameless wife in The Yellow Wallpaper is a prisoner in her room, hidden by her husband from everyone she knows, Emily is allowed the agency of choosing her isolation. This contrast can be flashed out even more if one pays attention to the names of the heroines: Emily, the one who keeps her agency to herself, also gets to keep the name. By contrast, the nameless wife is not supplied with the luxury of deciding what is going to happen, even to a limited extent that Emily enjoys.
Despite the fact that both tales include obvious gothic elements, which were popular during the Victorian era, William Faulkner’s story A Rose for Emily is regarded as more gothic than Gilman’s narrative. This is related to the horror that is clearly conveyed in the novel with Emily’s father’s death and, subsequently, Emily’s death, as well as the turn of events after her burial. Although most Victorian works used the tragedy in their portrayal, William Faulkner’s narrative The Yellow Wallpaper is sadder and more disturbing.
It beautifully portrays the sensation of being trapped even beyond the physical body of the main character, trapped with everyone’s expectations and society at large. For a final comparison, it is fair to say that A Rose for Emily portrays a woman who seemingly has signed up for a dangerous, life-threatening trial. Her decision to become a recluse is a questionable one for many reasons, but mostly because such choices are heavily hinted at by empowered men around her.
In conclusion, A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner and The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman are both focused on unhappily married women of their time trapped in their respective households. The women are troubled by a common issue that arose in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: masculine supremacy. The two short stories have a lot in common, including the main characters’ personalities, gothic aspects, and symbolism, among other things. However, there are a few minor distinctions in terms of the environment and their perspectives. Between the two short stories, there are more parallels than differences due to thematic overlap and some of the literary techniques employed by both authors.
Faulkner, William. A Rose for Emily and Other Stories. Random House Publishing Group, 2012.
Gilman, Charlotte P, and Charlotte P. Gilman. Herland: And, the Yellow Wallpaper. CreateSpace Independent, 2016.