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Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” & “The Yellow Wall-Paper” by Perkins-Gillman

Introduction

The short horror stories “A Rose for Emily” and “The Yellow Wall-Paper” have similar and different features, which are manifested through the authors’ use of the elements of gothic literature. “A Rose for Emily” is a short story by William Faulkner that was first published in 1930. The story tells about the protagonist, Emily Grierson, a respected old lady who leads a mysterious life. She is portrayed at different stages of her life when her father and her fiancée mysteriously disappear. “The Yellow Wall-Paper” by Charlotte Perkins-Gillman, on the other hand, is about a mentally ill young woman who is the protagonist and narrator, whose condition is described as “a slight hysterical tendency” (648). Her story is narrated in the form of a secret diary. She moves to an old mansion with her husband and stays to rest in a room with yellow wallpaper. However, the narrator hates the place; she thinks the place is haunted because of how unsettling the house is.

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Main body

The stories “A Rose for Emily” and “The Yellow Wall-Paper” are similar in many ways. One of these similarities is in both the protagonists. The two stories both deal with a protagonist that is mentally, emotionally ill, and they both feel that they are imprisoned or are in isolation. Therefore, it is evident that both authors use the element of a damsel-in-distress because of the heroines’ mental instability. They both are being driven insane because of the men in their lives. In “The Yellow Wall-Paper” the narrator retreats with her husband, John, to an unsettling mansion because John thought it would help her get well, but her condition only worsens. She says the yellow wallpaper in her room has an annoying pattern, which drives her insane; she gets to a point when she thinks she sees that there is a woman trapped behind the yellow wallpaper. The narrator, the mentally unstable woman, asks her husband to leave, but he insists that she should stay and says no. In “A Rose for Emily,” one might assume a similar tendency about Emily when she kills Homer Barron. After Emily goes insane, she is the damsel-in-distress; she is imprisoned in the house with the body of Homer.

Indeed, the role of men that cause women’s distress is a common feature of the two stories. In “The Yellow Wall-Paper,” John, the husband, does not notice how unstable his wife is getting, and John thinks she is getting better, but that is not the case. John did not support his wife and caused her suffering; he had complete control of her wife, which only enhances the idea of her being trapped. Therefore, both writers use the element of damsel-in-distress to create a gothic piece of literature. However, a difference in the use of this element is that Faulkner only implies Emily’s insanity by describing her life from the perspective of an outsider. In contrast, Perkins-Gillman uses the first-person perspective and explicitly states the woman’s mental illness at the very beginning of the story.

The two short stories are characterized by another common element of gothic literature, which is the setting in a mysterious mansion. Indeed, both “A Rose for Emily” and “The Yellow Wall-Paper” convey the events that take place inside a big old house, the history of which is unknown and mysterious. However, the setting is used differently by Perkins-Gillman and Faulkner. In “A Rose for Emily,” the events are set both in the house and outside of it; Emily is described in other settings, including the shop and the streets where she was seen by the residents of the city (Faulkner). On the contrary, “The Yellow Wall-Paper” is set entirely inside the house because the main character is trapped in her room (Perkins-Gillman 648-649). Such a choice of limited space as a setting enhances readers’ involvement in the story because they can feel the same way as the main heroine.

Another difference in relation to the setting is the perspective the authors use to create the mystery of the mansion. Faulkner does not reveal the interior of the house till the end of the story, while Perkins-Gillman builds the whole narration around the elements of the interior. It creates the special atmosphere of the narration, which is the third element of gothic literature that can be found in the two short stories.

Indeed, in both short stories, the writers create an atmosphere of mystery and suspense, which is traditional for gothic literature. Faulkner and Perkins-Gillman similarly build the intensity of the narration by not revealing the true objective vision of the events throughout the plot. However, there are significant differences in how the atmosphere intertwines with the plot and the author’s perspective. Perkins-Gillman’s first-person perspective introduces the mystery as the first-hand experience of the narrator. The woman does not know what is in the wall, and she is eager to find it out, as well as the readers are. The linear, chronological plot helps to enhance the intensity of suspense. On the other hand, Faulkner’s narrator is not the main heroine but an observer who knows the whole story and delivers it in pieces, thus building the suspense. Another significant difference pertaining to the atmosphere is that Faulkner’s plot is non-linear and non-chronological, which is why the mystery is unveiled differently.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the short stories “A Rose for Emily” and “The Yellow Wallpaper” have several similar and different features, which are identified through the lens of gothic literature elements. Firstly, they both use the element of damsel-in-distress portraying women’s insanity. However, Perkins-Gillman’s character’s distress is explicitly presented, while Faulkner’s heroine’s insanity is implied. Secondly, both stories are set in a big old mansion; however, in “A Rose for Emily,” the mystery is built around the building, and in “The Yellow Wall-Paper,” it evolves on the basis of its interior. Thirdly, both authors use the atmosphere of mystery and suspense to create a horror tone. However, different perspectives and plot delivery approaches have different effects on readers.

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Works Cited

Faulkner, William. A Rose for Emily. 2020. Web.

Perkins-Gillman, Catherine. The Yellow Wall-Paper. 2020. Web.

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StudyCorgi. "Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” & “The Yellow Wall-Paper” by Perkins-Gillman." April 29, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/faulkners-a-rose-for-emily-and-amp-the-yellow-wall-paper-by-perkins-gillman/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” & “The Yellow Wall-Paper” by Perkins-Gillman." April 29, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/faulkners-a-rose-for-emily-and-amp-the-yellow-wall-paper-by-perkins-gillman/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” & “The Yellow Wall-Paper” by Perkins-Gillman'. 29 April.

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