Understanding Emily and Jane Essay

Submitted By lord_moron
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Pages: 4

In William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” and Charlotte Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” the protagonists experience social isolation. Faulkner and Gilman use social expectations that their characters are assumed to innately meet in order to conjure up situations in which both characters struggle for acceptance. An individual, socially marooned, will yearn intensely to belong, making them willing to commit questionable acts in their attempt to achieve social normality. A social par paves a path to insanity for those who fail to meet the standard, especially for individuals of a higher class.

Faulkner’s Emily and Gilman’s Jane are not cut from the common fabric of society. The description of both characters illustrates them to be patches of a higher quality, a higher class, with higher expectations. Faulkner successfully emphasises Emily’s somewhat aristocratic role within her community, “When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral… [a] respectful affection for a fallen monument,” (Faulkner, 244). In the town of Jefferson, Emily is considered to be more important than an average woman; making any questionable action she commits prevalent to the townspeople. Eventually, a compulsory feeling within Emily, accompanied by loneliness, leads her to attempt to fulfill the expectation of finding a husband. In the opening paragraphs of “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Gilman sarcastically places Jane and her husband, John, within the higher class. Gilman has Jane narratively downplay her social position by saying, “[it] is very seldom that mere ordinary people like John and myself secure ancestral halls for the summer” (417). John is a doctor with an envious income. Allowing him to, for Jane’s recovery, rent an entire home without rendering him financially incapable to meet his other fiduciary needs. However, John believes that nothing is wrong with Jane.

Both Emily and Jane struggles with society are attributed to a dominant male figure in their life. Emily’s father never finds a gentleman caller fit for his daughter, “None of the young men were quite good enough” (Faulkner, 246). Jane’s husband is in the medical field, in society’s eyes this makes him the expert in curing Jane’s illness. She narrates how John scoffs her illness, “If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing to matter with one but temporary nervous depression--a slight hysterical tendency--what is one to do?” (Gilman, 417). John’s rejection of Jane’s illness pushes her to provide him with an illness that he can recognize.

As a southern bell, Emily is expected to marry a southern gentleman. Years after her overprotective father’s death, she strifes to find a male companion. Unfortunately, Emily grows old, surpassing the common age of being wooed. Emily becomes so desperate that she settles for a laboring yankee by the name of Homer Barron. In the eyes of Emily’s community, no self-respecting southerner would even consider mingling with a yankee. To make things worse, Homer can literally be construed to be a man’s man. Faulkner describes the community as ubiquitously knowing that...“he liked men, and it was known that he drank with the younger men… he was not a marrying man” (248). Disregarding the hints of Homer’s preference for male companionship, Emily turns a blind eye to his homoerotic tendencies. She does not necessarily love, but wants him and she refuses to see him disappear from her life like so many before.…