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Solitude as a Theme in The Yellow Wallpaper & A Rose for Emily Compare and Contrast Essay

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Updated: Jun 20th, 2021


Does it leave one wondering whether Emily Grierson, in ‘A Rose for Emily,’ should be blamed for her solitude and isolation from the rest of the society much as the woman narrator in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’?

Emily Grierson, in ‘A Rose for Emily,’ treats her solitude and isolation from the rest of society as a norm. When she dies, everyone goes for her funeral not because they liked her, but because she was a monument for the community. Some were curious to peep inside her house known only to a gardener and a cook for almost ten years.

The woman narrator in ‘The Yellow Wallpaper,’ on the other hand, sees her isolation from the community like a plague that will eat on her very soul. She yearns for her husband John, to be by her side but quickly points out that he is out attending to more severe cases. It is from the narrator that we learn that he is a physician.

Emily & the Narrator: Characters Comparison

Emily’s isolation and solitude are enhanced by her father’s influence on her ideas and actions. She is brought up in the era of civil war. His father turned away a lot of suitors to the effect that she was still single at the age of thirty. Miss Emily is brought up with the notion that she is from an influential and proud Southern family: The Griersons. This is supported by the part in which she starts hanging out with the Northerner Homer Barron.

It is regarded as a bad act; the laborer from the North was not her type or class. When her father dies, she in denial agrees to release his body for burial after a lot of pressure. She turns the community women come to pay homage to her away from her doorstep. This enhances her stubborn nature and highlights her isolation and solitude.

More about This Topic

In the text, there is every indication that Emily represented the last of the pre-civil war era. She lives in a pre-civil war house. Factories and cotton ginneries have replaced all the other houses close to her. She chooses to hang to her past more than the present, making her an isolated case in the ever-changing society. A lot of symbolism shows her isolation. She lived in an isolated beat-down house that was dark and dusty, a clear indication of her isolation, character, and solitude from the other society.

Emily’s contempt for the new laws and rules show how torn apart from the society she is. An indication of this is when she goes to the druggist to buy poison even when the law requires to abound up a reason to buy the poison; she stares at the druggist once, and she gets the poison she uses for murdering Homer Barron.

Another instance is when the aldermen representatives from the council come to visit her over the remittance of taxes. She tells them off, indicating that her father had loaned the town with special reference to Colonel Sartoris, the former mayor who had passed on for more than ten years. We can assume that she never knew whether the Colonel had passed on, thus highlighting her level of isolation and solitude.

When the Federal State departments issue an order on postal addresses, she refuses to comply, indicating her disregard for the new laws and developments. Her mere mention of her name for the foul smell emanating from her house by her neighbors’ to the present mayor shows how hard it is to deal with her.

The mayor, rather than confronting her, dispatches some men to pour lime around her house at night, and several days later, the smell subsides. In various instances in the story, it is reported that she is rarely seen outside by the people after her father’s death and after Homer was reported missing. This shows us of Emily, who is quite satisfied with her present state of affairs.

Her behavior makes her an embodiment of the pre and civil war era of a true and proud Southerner. We can try to understand it in these terms; she has a black man who, at the beginning of the text, is a young man now stooped and never talked perhaps due to restrictions around him. After he opens the door for the people after Emily’s death, he leaves never to be seen again.

We can conclude Emily’s behavior isolated her from a society that tried to involve her in every way, as indicated in the events in the story. She was so out of place such that when she bought the poison, everyone thought she was going to kill herself. This was thought to have been brought out by her relationship with Homer Barron, whom it was known was not ready to commit to marriage.

Her association with him had even led people to suggest that she be counseled by a church minister who later said he would never wish to engage her again. She was a fascination even after her death, with many coming to her funeral, the women more curious to look into her house where the skeleton body of Homer Barron was found (he had been missing for more than forty years) and a strand of her grey hair on a pillow next to him.

It was now understood of the course of her isolation. She was never the type that liked isolation. It was just that the only man she would have been glad to be with was not committed, resulting in her murdering him and retaining him in her upstairs room where she could see him and lie next to him, a symbol of bonding even after death.

In the ‘Yellow Wallpaper,’ isolation and solitude are well outlined by the dominance of the male over the female. John’s wife is always the one on fault. John is always on the right. The setting of this story is in the late nineteenth century. We come close to a lady who suffers from nervous sickness.

John, her husband, believes that she truly deserves rest and that her writing is doing her more harm than good. We are made to understand that her writing makes her think more creatively and clearly much to the disagreement of her husband, who believes more on facts than anybody else.

We could say that the tattered yellow wallpaper is symbols of worn-out belief of man’s perceived thought of ownership and provision for his wife. She claims to see a woman behind the wallpaper who rearranges the patterns beheld by it. There is a symbolic reflection of herself as she tries to change the perception of a submissive housewife.

She is trying to break free from the predominance of male possession. The woman she talks of seems to be free and creeps in the yard and road in daylight. In this case, male dominance and other misinformation may represent the tattered yellow wallpaper. They are the tattered beliefs and stereotypes of that age when a woman is to heed to a man’s advice and not her own.

More about The Yellow Wallpaper

The woman in this story has to heed to her husband John’s instruction and his symbol of authority in the form of Jennie, a talented housekeeper. The woman gets used to the yellow wallpaper smell but later on, she is unpleasant of its creepy smell. This symbolically means that she is disentangling herself from the firm possession of out of place belief s that she cannot be party to her conviction. We even understand that when they first moved in, she is eager to leave but later on she is more interested in staying there for a while. It may be due to a self-discovering of her freedom, which she fears will be robbed of her if they move back to their house. It is ironic that John’s projection was to have his wife’s health nurtured back by her resting. She is not supposed to do anything save bathing and dressing. At first, we see the fruits of recovery, but ironically it’s due to her self discovery, not John’s taunted point of view.

An incisive critique can only reveal that Emily in ‘A Rose for Emily’ has no time to discover her self-worth and chooses to spend her time in isolation and self-pity. These two stories tell of two contrasting women in similar influence. They are both squirming under male dominance. In as much as Emily is entangled in this, she is not willing to acknowledge the disastrous effects.

She believes that her fate lies with male dominance and possession. She believes that the only way to survive is to cling to her past. This is evident in her denial of her father’s death, the tax reduction, the death of Homer Barron, and the fact that her house is the placid building left behind by her father (she did not repair it in any way).

When she passed on, people could only imagine the places she would have been with them as indicated in part of the story: “Miss Emily as if she had been a contemporary of theirs, believing that they had danced with her and courted her perhaps, confusing time with its mathematical progression, as the old do, to whom all the past is not a diminishing road.”

The woman narrator on The Yellow Wallpaper, on the other hand, has discovered her self-worth. She is ready to tear the wallpaper and break loose. She is envious of her husband and Jennie, her house help. She narrates that she has found them both staring at the yellow wallpaper much to their own discomfort and to her great amazement. She is an embodiment of a great breakthrough in the fact that she rediscovers her new energy and point of view.

More on the Topic

Her nervousness is by then over. She breaks the bond of isolation and solitude on negative matters and prefers to be possessed with more positive values such as self-trust. She describes the amazement of Jane and her husband due to her new discovery in the last part of her story as: “I’ve got out at last,” said I,” In spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!”

“Now, why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall so that I had to creep over him every time!”


In both stories, the writers try to show us the effect of being complacent to change and the effect of restricting yourself to one popular belief. For Emily, she is described as a monument which symbolically means unchanging. As for the woman narrator in the Yellow wallpaper, she is happy to have discovered herself and actually improves in her health. The contrasting effect of isolation and solitude is felt throughout both stories.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Solitude as a Theme in The Yellow Wallpaper & A Rose for Emily." June 20, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/a-rose-for-emily-and-the-yellow-wallpaper-comparison/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Solitude as a Theme in The Yellow Wallpaper & A Rose for Emily'. 20 June.

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