Compare two characters from two stories - Literature Essay Example

Two short stories written in the early 20th centuries depict women trapped within the lifestyle of their families because of a dominating father.  These stories are that of James Joyce in Eveline and William Faulkner in A Rose for Emily.

Eveline, a short story in Joyce’s Dubliners, is about a girl named Eveline who had lived all her life in Dublin and has lived with her oppressively strict father.  The story tell about that day when Eveline tried to elope with her fiancé Frank to escape the routine and the suffocating life that she is living with her father.  On the other hand, William Faulkner’s Rose for Emily is about a woman who came from an old rich southern family, who lived the rest of her life, after her father’s death, in loneliness due mainly to her father’s strict disciplinarian ways and his snooty outlook on the community.  The story relates the desperate measures by which Emily tries to solve her problems.

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            Both character of Eveline and Emily had controlling father’s so much so that both women were not able to fully create a social network in their community as they weren’t allowed to socialize.  The motivations of their fathers differ, however.  In the case of Eveline, Eveline’s father became cruel, controlling and oppressive after the death of her mother.  The mother’s death seemed to have changed the father so much that there was hardly any joy in their household after.  In the case of Emily’s father, the family belonged to old southern high society that no longer exists because of the passing of time and because of the movement of this society to other places.  As such Emily’s father, who remained in the community when all other rich people have gone, treated everybody else in the community as beneath him and his daughter, disallowing her, therefore, to fraternize with anybody in the community and turning down every suitor that visited for Emily.

Both Eveline and Emily were direly affected by their fathers’ control however the fate of Eveline and Emily, as well as their characters because of their situations, are absolutely different as well.

The story of Eveline starts with her hesitating to elope with Frank, while hanging on to the letters she intended to leave her family.  As she ponders of what she is about to do, she recollects the time when her mother was still alive.  At this point, all she could remember about her father was when he was nice to her- all she could think of her life was the good times; until she remembered her mother’s death who, upon her dying breath said, “Derevaun Seraun” – which means death in life.  Upon remembering this line, Eveline rashly decides to elope.  However, at the pier, she, like a helpless animal, hangs on to the change unable to move, speak, express and leave Dublin with Frank to start a new life in Buenos Aires.

Eveline’s desire to leave her house shows how much she was tired of being controlled and yet, the moment the opportunity presented itself she forgot all about the negative issues as to why she was leaving and just recalled the happy times of her life in Dublin.  This shows how much she was unwilling to leave her house so much so that she refused to see the oppression and replaced it with all good thoughts.  She also was chained to her promise to her mother that she will make sure that the family stays intact.  However, upon the utterance of her mother, fear automatically encompassed her.  Her fear was rooted in the fact that she felt that she was already dying because of the control of her father even when she’s still has life.  This immediately pushed her away.  The end of the story was filled with symbolism that fully represents Eveline’s character.  Her indecision shows that she still wasn’t fully convinced that she should leave her family.  Her act of praying symbolizes her sense of routine as well as her inability to take responsibility for her actions.  By leaving her family she breaks her promise to her mother.  By praying and asking for a sign, she washes her hands of the consequences of her actions and leaves it to some divine force.  Her hanging on to the chain railing represents that she is unwilling to let go of her current life at the same time, the chain represents her bondage to her family, her father and her current life.  Finally, the fact that Joyce compared her to a helpless animal, shows that she is no different from an animal that had been caught and trapped to be domesticated; and like all domesticated animals, they know of no other home apart from the place where they were trained.  In the end, although Eveline thought that death in life was living with her family, she decided that leaving what she already knows is a far worse death while she was living.

Eveline’s personality shows a weakness in character that is not present in Emily at all.  Unlike Eveline, Emily in A Rose for Emily is presented to have a strong and haughty character.  Like Eveline, Emily had a father that controlled her life, severed her from the society thought to be unworthy and kept from suitors perceived to be inferior to Emily.  Unlike Eveline, Emily embraced this kind of perception.  Like her father, she behaved in a very snooty and haughty way and treated her neighbors with a level of superiority that the neighbors had no choice but to respect her.  She demanded respect.  Emily’s strong character was also illustrated when she was able to thwart the city’s councilors with ease and without a sweat.    She is also able to get her way by throwing her weight around as evidenced with her avoiding paying the taxes and her ability to purchase arsenic without question.  So unlike Eveline, Emily was neither helpless nor indecisive.  Despite having an oppressive upbringing, Emily adopted the ways of her father and was very resolute with what she wanted and how to get it.

However, despite having agreed with her father about their superiority over everyone else, Emily realized that there was no one good enough for her and she eventually felt the loneliness of solitude.  So, again very different from Eveline, Emily grabbed the opportunity the moment it presented itself.  She made sure that the man she loved would stay with her forever without having to abandon the lifestyle and the life that she had known from the moment she was born.  She killed the man she loved and slept beside him from then on.  As convoluted as it may seem, Emily had more than enough determination to be free of her loneliness.  She also was strong enough, or maybe crazy enough to sleep beside a corpse every day.  The act of killing shows ruthlessness in Emily that can only be traced from her father.  Therefore, even in the end it was Emily’s father, and the adoption of his ways, that was most prominent.  Nevertheless, even if it was utter madness to be sleeping with a dead body, in Emily’s mind she was finally happy, free and definitely not alone.

In conclusion, Eveline’s character is the exact opposite of Emily’s as the former is weak, afraid and indecisive while the latter is strong, bold and resolute.  However, their similar backgrounds have caused them to both to become mentally ill.  Due to the constancy of her father’s presence as well as Eveline’s fear of changing this, she stood in the pier in a state of catatonia – as if her soul has finally left her body and that she died.  She neither went with Frank nor did she go back home.  Due to Emily’s desire to uphold her father’s upbringing at the same time satisfy her personal need, she killed the one she loved and slept with his dead body for years – an absolute sign of madness.  So either way, whether Emily thought herself free and whether Eveline found a way to get out, the end result remains the same – they ended up still trapped in the clutches of their father’s power represented by Eveline’s inability to travel with Frank and Emily’s inability to leave her house causing her to kill Homer to assure companionship.

Reference:

Joyce, James. (1914) Eveline. Retrieved on February 22, 2008 from http://www.classicreader.com/read.php/bookid.345/sec./

Faulkner, William. (1970) A Rose for Emily. In Ed. Thomas Inge, A Rose for Emily p. 9-16. Columbus,Ohio: A Bell & Howell Company

 

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