Woman’s life in the patriarchal society is best illustrated in Guy De Maupassant’s short story Necklace and William Faulkner’s famous story A Rose for Emily. The main characters of these stories are trapped by conventions and limitations that society imposes on them. Their desires and aspirations sink under the weight of other people’s expectations, obligations to their families and male dominance in their lives. Both protagonists give up their dreams for the sake of being accepted by their society.
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At first, it is obvious that Maupassant’s Mathilde Loisel and Faulkner’s Emily Grierson are not cut out for the roles assigned for them in the society. Mathilde aspires for riches, but her middle-class status allows her to accept the proposal of her equal. She wants more than the life offers her, but she cannot rise above the class distinctions. Emily is also a victim of class prejudices, and her personal life comes crashing down, because her father is persuaded that she is too good for ordinary men. Both women crave for freedom in order to be able to make their own decisions based on what they feel and think. However, they are denied the right to choose whom to love and marry, but not secured from disappointments and mistakes. Mathilde and Emily know what they want, brooding about better lives and suppressing their complaints. Most probably, they do want to fall from disgrace and eventually comply with the roles expected of them or, at least, pretend to do so. Mathilde overcomes her selfishness and fastidiousness, for she has to deal with the hardships and unexpected problems. Emily pretends to lead a normal life, while keeping a terrible secret.
The protagonists of the above-mentioned short stories want to break though the constraints of the patriarchal society, but can hardly do so, as they cannot establish the rules – only play by those rules. Social acceptance is not their ultimate goal, but comes as an eventual result of the choices they make. They may be oblivious to the ways society influences them, but it is the society that shapes their destinies and has the final say in the matters of grave importance.
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