Male Dominance vs Female Resistance
Susan Glaspell’s “Trifles” and William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily” contain similar insights with regards to the relationship and gap of the male and female sexuality. Both stories communicate a symbolic representation of male dominance in the society and the possible resistance of females. Both utterly imply the complication brought about by gender-related inequalities and stereotypes. The two stories, despite the gender differences of the authors, portray similar themes of murder and loneliness. In “Trifles”, Mrs.
Wright was accused to have murdered her husband John Wright for motives of physical abuse. This idea was according to the assumptions of her two neighbours, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters upon discovering the dead bird inside Mrs. Wright’s fancy box (Glaspell 204). In “A Rose for Emily”, after Emily’s death, her neighbors found out that she has been keeping the corpse of her supposedly groom, Homer Barrons, in one of the unvisited rooms upstairs (Faulkner 402). It was later on realized by the neighbors that Emily murdered him herself because he deserted her.
Male dominance is definitely evident all throughout the course of the story. The characterizations and motivations of the major female characters, Mrs. Wright and Emily are founded on the patriarchal ascendancy which is evident in their life. John Wright’s dominance over his wife may not have been described in the play, yet we have Hale’s, the sheriff’s and the county attorney’s manly remarks which divided the conversation of all the characters in the house in two—between males and females collectively. The conversation between Mrs.
Hale and the county attorney best describes the type of communication which divided them. This is when Mrs. Hale remarks that, “Those towels get dirty awful quick. Men’s hands aren’t always as clean as they might be” and the attorney replies, “Ah, loyal to your sex, I see” (Glaspell 198). The intrusion of the men inside the Wright’s house trying to find physical evidence from the murder reveals their authority over the women since the women’s job is only to obtain personal things that Mrs. Wright might deem important to have inside the jail.
In this situation, the women are once again marginalized in their primary purpose of housework. Domesticity has always been attached to a woman’s primary roles in life. This play subtly explores such human experiences as disintegration of a marriage, bitter loss of innocence, psychological and physical spouse abuse, assault, breakdown of human communication, stress born of frustration and few alternatives. . . (qtd. in Ben-Zvi 87). These experiences, therefore, triggered the motivation of Mrs. Wright to show her resistance against her husband. When Mr. Wright wrung the neck of the bird, Mrs.
Wright had had enough of his abuse and authority over her so she resorted to murder as her way of stopping him from ruining her life. Unlike the implicit portrayal of male domination in Glaspell’s play, Faulkner’s tale provides us with a visual of the authority of Mr. Grierson, Emily’s father. He was described as, “a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door” (Faulkner 395). According to Janice Powell, Mr. Grierson, “is a menacing dark image assuming the dominant front position.
His turned back suggests a disregard for her emotional welfare as he wards off potential danger — or violation of her maidenhead — with his horsewhip” (Powell). This proves that Emily lived her life under the control of his father and that has a tremendous effect on her life after her father’s death. As Akers points out, “Freud theorized that repression, especially if it is sexual in nature, often results in psychological abnormality. In the story, Emily’s overprotective, overbearing father denies her a normal relationship with the opposite sex by chasing away any potential mates” (Akers).
It can be considered that Emily’s decision to murder Barron is a rebellious act against her father’s demands in her life. She had somewhat taken over her father’s characteristics of being authoritative and the behaviour and murder could have been her defense mechanism. “This Gothic plot makes serious points about woman’s place in society. . . More important, values are changing. The older magistrates . . . looked on Miss Emily paternally and refused to collect taxes from her; the newer ones try, unsuccessfully, to do so” (Enotes).
Hence, if one would analyse the stories of Glaspell and Faulkner, it is safe to conclude that they imply an idea that the women in the stories had shown their way of resisting male domination by means of murder. It also shows how repressed women were in the authors’ time. Considerably, the issue of male dominance is portrayed in the stories as somewhat hazardous in the society by making use of murder as the major character’s way of achieving justice.
Akers, Donald. A Rose for Emily (Criticism). Answers. com <http://www. answers. com/topic/a-rose-for-emily-story-8> Ben-Zvi, Linda.
Susan Glaspell: Essays on Her Theater and Fiction. United States of America: University of Michigan Press, 2002 Faulkner, William. “A Rose for Emily. ” The Portable Faulkner. Ed. Malcolm Cowley. New York: Penguin Classics, 2003. 402 Glaspell, Susan. “Trifles. ” Quilt Stories. Ed. Cecilia Macheski. Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 2001. 204 Powell, Janice A. Changing Portraits in “A Rose for Emily”. Center for Faulkner Studies. 10 November 2008 <http://www. semo. edu/cfs/teaching/index_4883. htm> A Rose for Emily (Magill Book Reviews). 10 November 08 <http://www. enotes. com/rose-emily-salem/rose-for-emily-0089900390>Sample Essay of Superiorpapers.com