William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" and Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" hold several similarities and differences. Both stories focus on a woman's troubles near the turn of the 19th century. This era is especially interesting because it is a time in modern society when women were still treated as second class citizens. William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" and Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" show the influences of society on the woman who is the main character in each story, very different settings, and similar symbolism and themes.
In the short story "The Yellow Wallpaper", by Charlotte Gilman, the setting is a colonial mansion. The narrator likes the house and thinks it is a good place to recover from her nervous condition. Her husband confines her to a bedroom so that her health will improve. She does not like this room. The bedroom she is confined to use to be a nursery, playroom, and gymnasium. The narrator's nervous condition becomes worse to the point of insanity due to her isolation in the bedroom, which is covered with ugly, yellow wallpaper.
The narrator spends most of her time in this room, which makes her becomes fixated with the wallpaper's patterns. She begins to imagine a woman behind bars in the paper. Finally, she loses her sanity and believes that she is the woman in the wallpaper, trying to escape. In contrast, the setting in "A Rose for Emily" starts in the Civil War Era.
The setting is not in chronological order. The small town of Jefferson is an important part of the setting. Emily's family lived in this town for many generations. The town did not like Emily's family, because her family is snobbish. Emily could not escape her family reputation.
The town of Jefferson only saw her as a Grierson. When Emily's father died the town helped Emily by not making her pay tax, so she would be financially secure. The setting that Emily was in would not allow Emily to change, so she was forced to act just like her family and be snobbish to the townspeople. In many ways, the title in both short stories represents symbolism. When first reading the title "The Yellow Wallpaper", people may think of a vivid, cheery covered room, but after reading the story they find out that the wallpaper's "color is repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow" (141). It reminds the narrator of "all the yellow things [she] ever saw -- not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old foul, bad yellow things" (148).
The design on the wallpaper reflects what the narrator is really going through and feeling. The woman trapped behind the bars in the wallpaper, represents the narrator's feelings of entrapment. She wants to tear the confining wallpaper down that holds this imaginary woman in just as she wants to tear the confining way of life her husband has chosen for her. At the end of the story the narrator locks herself in the yellow room to tear down all the ugly wallpaper. The narrator tears down the wallpaper, so the woman in the wallpaper cannot be put back into confinement.
The story ends with her husband fainting, and the narrator "creeping" and paying him no concern at all except that once again he is in her way but this time, not able to stop her journey along the wall and for the rest of her life. In reading "A Rose for Emily" people may think a rose is a symbol of love. The rose has been used for many years to illustrate a never-ending type of love and faithfulness. Miss Emily's "rose" exists only within the story's title.
Faulkner leaves the reader to interpret the rose's symbolic meaning. Emily was denied the opportunity of falling in love in her youth, so consequently she isolated herself from the town. Emily was denied her "rose", by her father, the people of Jefferson, and Homer Barron. The theme of both stories is isolation. Both Emily Grierson in William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" and the narrator of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" are forced into isolation simply because they are women.
Emily, as a "slender figure in white in the background", is prevented from having suitors by her father (376). The husband of Gilman's narrator isolates her from stimulation of any kind. Eventually, Emily is a hermit trapped in a deprecated home, and the narrator in Gilman's story is a delusional woman confined to her bed. "The Yellow Wallpaper" and "A Rose for Emily" are very different in setting. The setting for "A Rose for Emily" is a small town in Jefferson, whereas the setting in "The Yellow Wallpaper" is a colonial mansion with a yellow room in it. Both stories are very similar in symbolism and theme.
The title in both stories represents symbolism, and the theme in both stories is isolation. "The Yellow Wallpaper" and "A Rose for Emily" were wrote in the 19th Century, where men were superior to women. This Era had a lot to do with the way the men in both stories treated the women.