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Repression of Women

Due to their social responsibilities and expectations, women were often oppressed in the late 1800s and early 1900s. “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin and “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner explores the issue. Both stories show how women were limited by their time and place. Both texts depict women’s enslavement through symbolism, character, and setting. Mrs. Mallard in “The Story of an Hour” is limited by her social and marital status. A house and surrounding foliage represent the protagonist’s feeling of confinement. In William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily,” Emily Grierson is stifled by family and society. A decaying estate symbolizes her imprisonment. The paper examines the character and setting to explain feminine suppression in “The Story of an Hour” and “A Rose for Emily.” This article will also investigate how both tales use symbolism to convey female subjugation. The paper analyzes these aspects to understand better the obstacles women experienced throughout the given era. Thesis: This research examines “The Story of an Hour” and “A Rose for Emily” characters, places, and symbolism. This research suggests that these literary works depict women whose situations have been concealed due to their time and place.

Analysis: “The Story of an Hour.”

The protagonist of “The Story of an Hour,” Mrs. Mallard, is depicted as a female who experiences oppression due to her marital status and the societal norms that governed women’s behavior in the late 1800s. The portrayal of the female character illustrates her confinement to domesticity and her prescribed role as a spouse, thereby impeding her ability to articulate her ambitions and yearnings. The notion of a prolonged life is expressed in the following case: Initially, Louise harbored apprehension towards the prospect of a prolonged existence due to her aversion towards being subservient to Bentley’s wishes for an extended duration. Following his demise, she offered prayers for a prolonged lifespan, as it would enable her to lead a life solely for herself. This is ironic as the subject’s demise followed shortly after her supplication. Merely a day prior, she had contemplated with a tremble that existence could be of considerable duration.

The narrative’s physical environment, comprising a dwelling and its surrounding greenery, symbolizes the limitations imposed upon Mrs. Mallard’s existence. The garden is characterized as exhibiting a torpid and uneventful summer day, while the house is portrayed as spacious, cozy, and unoccupied. The depictions mentioned above accentuate the void and absence of contentment in the existence of Mrs. Mallard. The aperture in Mrs. Mallard’s chamber symbolizes her yearning for emancipation and release from her repressive presence.

The intersection of character and setting unveils the theme of female repression. Mrs. Mallard’s essence embodies the challenges women face in the historical context of the narrative. The female subject aspires to exercise autonomy over her existence and decision-making yet is impeded by the norms and conventions of her community and the limitations imposed by her marital union. The literary backdrop functions as a symbolic representation of her suppressed existence and the absence of autonomy she experiences therein.

The apex of the narrative, wherein Mrs. Mallard becomes conscious of her spouse’s demise and undergoes a moment of profound joy and autonomy, underscores the motif of female subjugation. This instance highlights the distinct disparity between Mrs. Mallard’s original aspirations and the cultural norms imposed upon her. Mrs. Mallard’s spouse is disclosed to be alive, and her subsequent demise due to the shock emphasizes the motif of women’s incapacity to extricate themselves from their oppressive circumstances.

Analysis: “A Rose for Emily.”

The character of Emily Grierson in the literary work “A Rose for Emily” is portrayed as a woman who experiences repression from her family and the societal norms that were prevalent during the early 1900s. The portrayal of the protagonist illustrates her confinement within the deteriorating estate of her family, thereby impeding her ability to articulate her aspirations and yearnings (Chopin, 4). The statement above, “Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town,” illustrates the idea that the woman in question was viewed as a customary practice, a responsibility, and a concern, serving as an inherited duty for the community.

The deteriorating estate where the narrative takes place symbolizes Emily’s confinement within the boundaries of her existence. The mansion is characterized as an unsightly structure amidst a collection of similarly ugly buildings, emphasizing its disrepair and the seclusion that Emily encounters. The deterioration of the mansion is symbolic of the waning of the antebellum South and the transformations that were transpiring in that era.

The intersection of character and setting unveils the theme of female repression. The character of Emily serves as a symbol of the challenges women face in the historical context under consideration. The individual in question is a female who aspires to exercise autonomy in her life decisions yet is impeded by the societal and familial norms imposed upon her. The literary device of setting functions as a symbolic representation of the protagonist’s suppressed existence and the absence of autonomy she experiences within it.

The exposition of Emily’s clandestine act of harboring her deceased lover remains within her abode accentuates the motif of female subjugation. This particular instance exemplifies the degree to which Emily was subjected to repression by her family and the societal norms imposed upon her (Shen,120). The individual in question faced a hindrance in openly conveying her affection for her departed partner and resorted to concealing his remains within her residence.

Using symbolism within the narrative further underscores the motif of female subjugation. The juxtaposition of the rose, a symbol of love and beauty, with the deteriorating mansion and the decaying body of Emily’s lover is a notable instance. The scenario above underscores the juxtaposition between Emily’s yearning for affection and aesthetics and the inhibitory factors that impede her from attaining them.


The central focus of both Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” and William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” is the theme of the repression of women and its resulting consequences. The two literary masterpieces under consideration delve into the limitations and restrictions imposed on women’s lives by the societal norms and expectations prevalent in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” depicts a woman’s challenges in her battle against oppression and the aftermath of triumph over these limitations. The central character, Mrs. Mallard, is purported to suffer from cardiac ailments, conceivably induced by her matrimonial union’s constraints and repressive nature (Fang, 106). The subject’s countenance is characterized by a vacant gaze, which implies a sense of being confined within her present circumstances.

Upon receiving the news of her husband’s demise, Mrs. Mallard’s initial response is characterized by sorrow and mourning, as is customary for an individual who has suffered the loss of their significant other. Nonetheless, she promptly recognizes the prospective liberation that her spouse’s demise could afford her. The individual envisions a lifestyle liberated from the constraints of conventional societal standards, anticipated roles, and the limitations associated with marital status. The newfound sense of liberation is characterized as an “elixir” that invigorates her senses.

The brief period of liberation experienced by Mrs. Mallard is temporary, as a sense of dread subsequently supplants her joy upon discovering that her spouse is, in actuality, alive and in good health. Her aspirations of breaking free from the constraints imposed by marriage and societal norms are thwarted. The abrupt alteration of circumstances culminates in a myocardial infarction, leading to rapid demise.

By contrast, the literary work “A Rose for Emily” delves into the repercussions of suppression using the portrayal of the character Emily Grierson. In the late 19th century, a wealthy spinster named Emily resided in a small southern town. The townspeople are captivated by her and discuss her secluded way of living.

In the narrative, Faulkner delineates how Emily’s father had sequestered her from the community, precluding her from engaging in matrimonial pursuits or fostering intimate connections. Emily’s father had restricted her autonomy and failed to adequately prepare her for navigating the external environment. Emily’s mental instability is further intensified due to the solitary and secluded lifestyle she leads due to her father’s dominance over her.

Upon the passing of Emily’s father, she exhibits a denial that indicates underlying psychological issues. She adamantly declines to permit removing any of her father’s belongings from their formerly opulent estate, which represents her sole remaining valuable asset. Throughout the narrative, Emily’s psychological well-being declines, leading to heightened seclusion and a distorted sense of reality.

The repression experienced by Emily culminates in the act of violence wherein she takes the life of her romantic partner and retains his remains in her sleeping quarters until her passing. The occurrence above can be attributed to the oppressive societal norms that Emily is subjected to, which have rendered her incapable of coping with her feelings of seclusion and solitude.

The primary focus on the suppression of women and its aftermath in “The Story of an Hour” and “A Rose for Emily” underscores the societal constraints imposed on women and the criticality of their psychological and emotional welfare.

In the narrative, Chopin delves into examining how the established norms and customs of matrimony and household duties oppressed women during the latter part of the 1800s. The cardiac afflictions of Mrs. Mallard serve as a symbolic representation of the deleterious impact that adherence to conventional gender norms can have on women’s physiological and psychological well-being (Sohail,445). The temporary nature of her liberty is abruptly curtailed, and the fatality resulting from the deprivation of her recently acquired autonomy underscores the perils of subjugation on the female existence.

In contrast, Faulkner’s narrative underscores the suppressive influence of patriarchy, whereby Emily’s father exerts dominion over all facets of her existence. The repression experienced by Emily results in emotional instability, social isolation, and an inability to cope with external stimuli. The individual’s incapacity to establish intimate connections ultimately leads to homicide, demonstrating the severe outcomes that can arise from suppressed sentiments and cultural limitations.

In conclusion, the literary works “The Story of an Hour” and “A Rose for Emily” aptly delve into the subject of female oppression and its aftermath using depicting their respective female protagonists. The two narratives illustrate the impact of societal conventions and anticipations on women’s ability to express themselves and how suppressing such expression can result in a range of adverse consequences that extend beyond the individual to encompass those in her immediate surroundings. Notwithstanding their age, these narratives retain their pertinence in light of women’s ongoing challenges in confronting cultural limitations and striving for self-determination and autonomy.

Work Cited

Chopin, Kate. The story of an hour. Jimcin Recordings, 1981.

Fang, Jie. “Working through Falulkner’s A Rose for Emily—On Character and Character Portrayal.” Theory and Practice in Language Studies 1.1 (2011): 105-107.

Shen, Dan. “Non-ironic turning ironic contextually: Multiple context-determined ironies in “The Story of an Hour.” (2009): 115-130.

Sohail, Rabia, and Sumera Shan Ahmad. “The Use of Adjectives: A Comparative Study of Rappaccini’s Daughter by Nathanial Hawthorne 1844, and a Rose for Emily by William Faulkner 1930.” Journal of Policy Research 8.3 (2022): 444-451.


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