A Rose for Emily and I Stand Here Ironing: Comparing Protagonists

April 13, 2021 by Essay Writer

Fiction Exam

The general population often leaves a group or individual in the opposite corner of the ring when it comes to life. In William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” and in Tillie Olsen’s “I Stand Here Ironing”, both of the protagonists were scorned women, scorned by their peers and scorned by their loved ones in their external conflict of man versus society. Their hardships and the criticisms they were subjected to from their communities caused them both to make detrimental decisions and hurt some of their loved ones in the process. They diverge from each other as the mother in “I Stand Here Ironing” chose to abide by society’s standards for how to be a mother while Emily Grierson rebelled against society’s expectations for adapting to modern times. As a result, these two characters had fairly different outcomes to their stories.

A mother always wants what is best for their child and the mother from Faulkner’s short story “I stand here Ironing” is no exception. She committed herself to following how society directed a child to be raised as she was nurturing her first born, Emily. Even though her better judgment realized the flaws of some of these techniques and decisions of child raising, the mother continued to parent by the book. When she was nursing Emily she would keep Emily latched on “until the clock decreed” signifying that the time was up for however long her parenting book told her to breast feed for (Faulkner). Even though Emily cried from over-satisfaction and the mother’s “breast ached with swollenness” she continued to nurse because that was what the book instructed her to do (Faulkner). Like most first time mothers she was unexperienced, but she wasn’t able to detect the signs that she should stop because of the dependence she had developed on society. Emily is sent to a convalescent home after “they persuaded” her mother (Faulkner). Once again the mother is following what someone else instructs her to do, who she believes knows better. These choices strained their relationship, but they did help the mother develop as a parent. She eventually learned to raise her kids how she felt was best, along with the help of Emily. In the end it is revealed that a set and generalized standard does not work for everyone and that one should follow their instincts more when they’re in doubt, because society is not always right.

When one has been raised certain way and is thrusted into a barrage of changes, it is challenging if not impossible to adapt. When the town leaves Emily Grierson in the past in Tillie Olsen’s prose “A Rose for Emily”, she refuses to change her old and traditional ways. When a delegated group of men visit Emily’s home to request that she pay her taxes she only repeats to them “I have no taxes in Jefferson” (Olsen). She has grown stubborn in her old ways and refuses to pay taxes because she never had to before. Even with new rules and officials she continues to do things her way. She symbolized tradition and what the town was once before, and even though she was well known through-out the town, the community was waiting for her to pass on as she was the only factor holding the town back from the future. This proves that traditions can only last for so long and that time will move with or without you.

If society is persistent in pushing one into a corner, there are only two options: to stand one’s ground or let them control you. In a conflict between man and society, the end results will be different, but there is always a choice. Emily and the mother are two very different women but both had to face a man versus society conflict.

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