Literature Reflects Communities

Literature Reflects Communities: A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner and The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin

A community is a group of people who live in close proximity to each other with the same culture and mostly the same values.  Most people identify themselves with their communities.  It is their root system which grounds them.  It also shapes an individual in who he/she is.  The community chides a person when he/she has done something that is not accepted in the community and it revels in his/her accomplishments.  A community can be an extremely important part of a person’s life; however, it can also be the demise of an individual.  Literature has depicted communities for centuries and for the most part it reflects them in a positive light.  William Faulkner and Kate Chopin chose to portray communities in a negative way through A Rose for Emily and The Story of an Hour.

Both short stories A Rose for Emily by Faulkner and The Story of an Hour

focus on marriage in the eighteen nineties.  The communities where Mrs. Mallard and Emily Grierson resided felt that a woman’s worth was through her husband.  This sentiment is evident for Emily because the community sits in judgment of her since she is not married.  During this time a woman passed from her father’s authority to that of her husband, therefore, it was believed that all little girls would grow up and marry young.

We had long thought of them as a tableau, Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door. So when she got to be thirty and was still single, we were not pleased exactly, but vindicated; even with insanity in the family she wouldn’t have turned down all of her chances if they had really materialized. (Faulkner)

Emily Grieson was thirty years old and not married and this fact would make the whole community pity her.  Today women choose to marry at much later ages if they marry at all, but Emily was not allowed this privilege without shame and reproach.

            Mrs. Mallard in The Story of an Hour suffers the fate of her community expecting her to marry.  There is no evidence that Mr. Brently Mallard was anything but kind and loving to his wife, but when everyone is convinced that he died, she ends up becoming happy.  She goes upstairs to grieve alone, and while she is listening to the sounds of spring in the air, she becomes aware that she is a free woman.

There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they ahve a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination…. “Free! Body and soul free!” she kept whispering. (Chopin)

Mrs. Mallard was not an evil woman.  She was simply living a life that her community had sentenced her to live.  She would have had no choice in who she married or if she was to marry.

            In A Rose for Emily the community is also wrong to allow Emily Grieson to get away with the things that she does.  She kills her only suitor and it is not discovered until she dies many years later.  In fact the community was as much to blame for the murder as much as Emily was.  They pressured her to marry, and when she saw that she was to be dumped by Homer Barren, her fiancé, she killed him.  The druggist should never have sold her the arsenic, but he did because of her family name which was important in a small Southern town.  Then there was the smell that lasted for weeks that no one would investigate because of who she was.  Homer’s murder could have been avoided altogether if the community had not minded that she was single and if she had not been allowed to purchase the arsenic.  Emily would have had to pay for her crime if the community would have looked into the smell.

            Throughout A Rose for Emily the conflict between the younger generation and ways of the older generation of the community.  This gives hope that the sins committed by the community will somehow be different in the future.  The same is true with Mrs. Mallard.  If she had the temerity to desire freedom more than a life controlled by her husband, then other women might feel the same way.

Works Cited

Chopin, K. (1894). The Story of an Hour.  Retrieved April 17, 2008 from

Faulkner, W. (1930).  A Rose for Emily.  Retrieved April 17, 2008 from


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