The Tragedy of Emily and Louise
Emily Grierson in Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” and Louise Mallard in Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” are both regarded as tragic characters defeated by social repressions. As isolated individuals, their resistance to social repressions seems so weak that in the end they are inevitably confronted with deaths. Although they live in different times, the social repressions they endure share some similarities. More specifically, the two characters have all suffered in male-dominated society and are burdened with social expectations. However, these social expectations have different features in detail which, in turn, affect the two characters’ ways of pursuing freedom.
To begin with, the lives of Emily and Louise are dominated by male authority: Emily by her father and Louise by her husband. When Emily’s father is alive, he controls all aspects of Emily’s life, imposing a cloister-like living condition on her. Emily, for most of the time, is confined to her home only, isolated from social activities, let alone a romantic relation with a man. It is said in the text that her father drives away all the young men and sees no one as qualified for his daughter, and then Emily remains single even at the age thirty. His “protection” for Emily actually has dehumanized Emily, keeping her away from a normal life in which she could love and be loved by others.
In “The Story of an Hour,” Chopin does not explicitly describe how Louise’s husband treats her except for the depiction that “[Mr. Mallard’s] face [has] never looked save with love upon her” (Chopin, 162) And Louise herself has no resentment against her husband. Notwithstanding this seemingly happy marriage, we can infer from Louise’s reflection that in fact her happiness has been destroyed by her marriage. Her longing for freedom is straightforwardly revealed in the line: “She said it over and over under the breath: ‘free, free, free!’” (Ibid, 161) This may suggest that Louise’s living...