The narrators in "A Rose for Emily" and "The Odour of Chrysanthemums" both portray women in bad light. In both books, women are given a role that make them subordinate to men and puts them in a perpetual struggle to overcome social biases and marginalization.
The persistent suffering that Elizabeth undergoes throughout the story draws lots of sympathy for her. From the onset, it appears that Walter is the source of her problems. For example, he regularly gets home late in a pathetic drunken state after staying at the local pub that he has made his second home. Although Elizabeth seems to have accepted his lifestyle, she shows annoyance when she has to delay her dinner day after day. Throughout the story, she seems to be making bitter comments about Walter like, Walter comes home drunk he’ll be “like a log” giving an impression that she wouldn’t persevere any longer. She begins to think that she married the perfect brand of a bad husband and that she is certainly wasting her precious life with Walter. She appears as the clear victim of unfortunate circumstances at a time when she really needs a happy life. She knows it is a hard thing to change, yet she cannot stop complaining about it. Thus, the reader cannot help but feel lots of sympathy for her (Jessica 2007).
The same scenario is replicated in A Rose for Emily as the narrator makes the only woman to suffer in the hands of men. The narrator provokes a sense of pity and sympathy for Emily, especially the fact that she doesn’t seem to understand the dynamics of life. The narrator says, “after her father's death she went out very little; after her sweetheart went away, people hardly saw her at all’. Her biasness pushes her into insisting on isolating herself and she dearly suffers instead. For example, when she kills her boyfriend and insists on sleeping with him, it becomes clear that she possesses a strange trait; she gets sexually attracted to dead people. The reader therefore wonders why she had to go this far for love. Emily seems to have been controlled by men, starting from her dad to her boyfriend both in life and in death. These incidents do not affirm her status as a woman who would go out to prove her worth in front of the whole world. Rather, she prefers to perpetually play a second fiddle to every man who comes into her life.
In “A Rose for Emily”, Emily is a self –marginalized individual who wants to stay indoors all the time. Her situation gets even worse when her boyfriend wanted to leave her. She seems to emotionally tied to the men in her life that she cannot easily let go of them. It is clear that she has become a desperado when she sleeps in a rusty house with a corpse on the same bed because she does not want to lose her boyfriend. She exhibits the traits of a southern eccentric with a life that is quite unbalanced and bizarre. The narrator says, “alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town”. She even wanted to formulate and enforce her own tax laws and does not want to comply with county council laws. The fact that she could take the life of man reveals how much she feels alienated from the society (Betty 2001). However, it appears that she is actually marginalizing herself when people show lots of concern for her than she shows for herself. Her antisocial behavior reveals so much about her perception of gender roles. From the way she lives her life, it is clear she believes women cannot survive without men in their lives.
In the Odor of Chrysanthemums the feeling of marginalization comes from the fact that women feel out of place as their suffering has come at a time when they thought they would be happiest. Walter’s mother had thought that she would be happy to see her well-mannered son raise his family. Elizabeth also accepted Walter’s hand in marriage anticipating a perfect life with him. However, these come to a naught as Walter becomes a complete drunkard who hardly gets home on time to relax with his family. However, the fact that these women do nothing to help the situation reveals some biasness on their side. The narrator says, “She looked at his naked body and was ashamed, as if she had denied it. . .”.Thus, although marginalized from the group, it appears that Annie was the only voice of reason with regards to Walter’s situation. However, an element of remorse for biasness sets in the Odor of Chrysanthemums after Walter’s death when it appears that the women also contributed to their woes. For example, it appears that Elizabeth has had a very biased opinion about her husband and that she did nothing to help him. All along, she had looked at Walter as a source of her burden rather than a man who deserves her help. In fact, she feels shame that Walter died before she could know him well as he was hardly home. The tone of the story changes from that of sympathy for Elizabeth to lamentations over her biasness. The fact that she finally accepts her failure in marriage refreshes the story and gives it a new tone. Elizabeth concedes that her refusal to help her husband helped tear apart their marriage. Essentially, Elizabeth portrays a double face in the story, one that exudes anger and another that feels deep sense of pity for her negligence. In addition, Walter’s mother says that the Walter she is mourning is not the one lying dead on the floor. She could possibly be mourning Walter the teenager she had loved several years ago. It is quite pitiful that they rushed into condemning him though they could have got the best of him by just being a little bit more appreciative. In these instances, sympathy is felt for Walter, and not the women.
From the forgoing, there is lots of gossip going round in the story among the women. She says, “Eh, he'll not come now till they bring him”. Mrs. Rigley, though sympathetic to Elizabeth’s their marriage exploits their woes as she uses it for gossip elsewhere. Nonetheless, the three women seem to share in one thought that Walter had not been a good husband. The only female who seems marginalized from this school of thought is Annie Bates, Walter’s young daughter. She is so attached to her father that her mother’s harsh words about Walter don’t seem to bother her.
In conclusion, the narrators in the two stories evoke feelings of sympathy for the women from the roles that women are made to play. They significantly contribute to their social marginalization as they are reluctant to embrace the society and become active participants. As a result, they dearly suffer in the hands of other women or other men.