This paper investigates the literature that is available on feminist criticism. It evaluates the stories in “A Rose for Emily” and “The Chrysanthemums” and compares the manner in which the narrator depicts women in the stories. According to the literature that is available, feminist criticism generally focuses on what the society thinks of women or their roles in the society. For example, a society can be dominated by women depending on its culture. In the old society, men were known to dominate the social scene, thereby, leading to what has been described as patriarchy. This paper investigates feminist criticism from the perspective of social bias, sympathy and marginalization.
The narrator is certainly biased towards women in “A Rose for Emily” since Emily’s life is described as overly dependent on other people. The lady’s life was so much dependent on her dad that she found it hard accepting that her dad had really died. According to the story, her dad had determined every aspect of her life, including those she dated. Probably for this reason, it took her so long to accept that her father had really died and that she had to bury his body. She would resist change at all cost, especially if it did not favor her. And when the narrator indicated that her grandmother had behaved in a similar manner, it became clear that women had cut a lower niche in the society. That one would halt all events of her life just because the death of the father revealed the extent of emotional insecurity she had being away from her dad. Although it would be acceptable for this to happen, she would raise her eyebrows when it kept repeating itself. For example, when Emily’s lover, the one she got after her father had died, decided to leave her she would not have any of it. She cut an image of someone so dependent on other people’s lives and therefore easily manipulated by the events of their lives. The story describes Emily’s intentions to kill her lover. She gets her poison ready just to ensure that her lover remains close to her bed. And even after he was dead, Emily went ahead to sleep with his dead body despite all the health risks. In short, she cared very little about her personal hygiene just so as to retain her lover. This aspect of the story gives a negative picture of women. It portrays them as being overly dependent on other people. In short, the narrator in “A Rose for Emily” believes in a patriarchal society that is dominated by men, and where women are predictable and revolve around men.
Similarly, “The Chrysanthemum” portrays women as people who are imprisoned by their male counterparts. Elisa was only to be found in her ring-fenced garden taking care of her flowers. In as much as the reader would want to believe that the fence was meant to keep off dogs and chicken from destroying her plants, it appears that it is Elisa who is being locked up. She is not expected to roam around, ostensibly to prevent her from sharing her gardening skills with anyone outside the garden compounds. According to the available literature, this idea was meticulously designed by Henry in one of the conversations they had in the garden. He had told her to stay in the garden and make the best out of it. This definitely needed some time and certainly required that one ought to stay in the garden almost all the time. The suggestion that Elisa should stay in the orchard and help Henry with the gardening reduced the status of women to mere spectators in the social scene. Conversely, the narrator depicts men as daring and brave in a world that is quite uncertain. For example, Scott and Henry were to take up the challenge of running a cattle drive. This reveals the bias towards women in the two stories in that women are left at home as dependent housewives as men try out risky but potentially beneficial business ventures (Jessica, 2007).
The stories in “A Rose for Emily” and “The Chrysanthemum” evoke some sense of sympathy for women in that they resist changes that are likely to make their lives better. They have become their own enemies in the male-dominated society. Considering that the story’s setting was way before the Civil Rights Movement, it can be expected that women were still regarded as less equal to men and whose place was somewhere between child-bearing and the kitchen. Thus, one would expect that women would be quite uncomfortable with this arrangement that they would embrace any suggestions of a change. However, this does not seem to happen because women willingly accept to play a second fiddle to their husbands or do nothing to raise their social profile. For example, Elisa readily accepts her position in the flower garden without asking any questions. In her opinion, there was nothing wrong with her being imprisoned in the small garden. It is like there was nothing better she could do in this world other than tendering flowers. While gardening is a good venture, it should not be the only thing that one can do in the entire life. Furthermore, she was a beautiful woman who would be more proud walking through the city streets. And she was intelligent enough to meet with prominent persons for business deals. It was therefore terribly wrong to lock her up in the garden under the pretence of nurturing her talents (Betty, 2001).
On the other hand, Rose willingly accepts to be controlled by her father. The fact that she would allow her father to choose those she dates reveal the extent of dependence she had on her father. This is not characteristic of a daring woman who is out to prove that women hold as equal a social place as men. However, it is the idea of sleeping with a dead body that reveals that something was terribly wrong with women of the time. It is quite sympathetic to imagine that a woman would reduce herself to such low levels, no matter what amount of love existed between them. In fact, it gets more exciting to remember that Rose’s lover wanted to leave her, a clear sign that there was no much love between them. It appears that Rose looks quite insecure without men around her to protect her. She cannot hide the fact the she believes that men run the world and that women have no happiness away from men. However, it is the much she is ready to concede that makes her situation so pitiful.
According to the available literature, women are marginalized in “The Chrysanthemum”, but they marginalize themselves in “A Rose for Emily”. Ideally, the reader gets an impression that it is the society that does not recognize the place of women in the society. That is probably why Henry can have the guts to lock up his wife in the garden. He strongly believed that she could not do anything better that raising good flowers. This is a serious extent of marginalization that is characteristic of the American society before the Civil Rights Movement. The belief at the moment was that women were only objects for men to use and that they could not enjoy as equal social rights as men. The fact that Elisa did not even protest against the decision shows that it was the norm at the moment. Thus, one cannot miss to see that women are terribly marginalized. This is slightly different from the story of Rose where she appears to be marginalizing herself. Even when an opportunity presents itself for her to exercise self-determination, she lets it go untapped. For example, she had to be begged to clean the house that she lived in. And even after much effort, she didn’t take the chance to prove that women also value personal hygiene. Instead, she further entrenches the dominant belief that women do not know what is right for them and should always be shown the right way. This did not do her any favor because the more she resisted change in the society, the more she exposed herself to social ridicule. The town people seized the opportunity to act against her will to make her pay the taxes as well as get out of the room more often. It makes the reader feel that she was being unfairly treated as less equal yet she caused it all.
In conclusion, the events of the two stories reveal much about the society, although they depict women of the ancient times. The stories also show how women contributed to their social marginalization by not standing up for their rights. It should be noted that the narrators merely wanted to communicate some information with regards to the position of women in the society. Thus, the way women are portrayed in the stories is quite significant. It is clear that women will not get the respect they want until they get out to look for it.