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human condition when one compares characters in the stories of different writers. Each writer's story indicates a perception of the human condition that is acted out by the story's characters. One interesting study may be to compare the character of Miss Emily Grierson from "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner with the character of Elisa Allen in "The Chrysanthemums" by John Steinbeck. Through the author's description of the characters, the world around them, and their reactions, the reader can learn a lot about the individuals, and even more so when they are compared to one another. Miss Emily Grierson and Elisa Allen's very different lifestyles create in each of them a similar perception about the world they live in, but they each respond to their perception of life in very different ways.
It would first be prudent to take a look at the differing lifestyles of the two protagonists, which shape the characters' responses and attitudes. In "The Chrysanthemums," Elisa Allen is a hard-working house wife with a husband who loves her, living in a farm house in the middle of the country. Her husband, Henry, when they have the resources, offers to take her out for dinner, or a movie, or whatever she might like. Elisa keeps her house impeccably clean and tidy, with "hard-polished windows, and a clean mud-mat on the front steps" (Steinbeck). Elisa also has a passion for planting and tending to her Chrysanthemums. She is a phenomenal worker of them, assisting them to grow larger than anyone else's in the area. She plants them, waters them, trims them, and shapes them. She takes pride in the fact that she can grow the blooms "ten inches across" simply by using her "planters' hands" (Steinbeck). She likes the outdoors and is at least civil if not friendly in conversation with strangers, as in the way she jokes with the stranger in the wagon about his dogs and horses "getting started" (Steinbeck). She is a strong woman, who can keep the house tidy, do gardening work, sharpen her scissors and un-dent her cooking pots and pans.
While Elisa Allen's life seems to be full and busy, the life of Miss Emily Grierson from "A Rose for Emily" is quite a bit blander. The story opens at the time of her death, which may very well have been the most eventful thing that ever happened to Miss Emily. Up until that point she seemed to live a quiet, if not unfortunate, life. The house in which she lived, unlike Elisa's, seemed dirty and in disrepair, "with its stubborn and coquettish decay," and its smell "of dust and disuse" (Faulkner). She was very infrequently seen outdoors, and the longer her life went on, the less and less she came out. Her father's death was one event that succeeded in trapping her further indoors, and "after her sweetheart went away, people hardly saw her at all" (Faulkner). While Elisa Allen had a husband who loved her dearly, Miss Emily had no real love in her life, as her "sweetheart," Homer Barron, "had remarked . . . that he was not a marrying man" (Faulkner). And while Elisa has a passion for chrysanthemums, Miss Emily had no activities to keep her busy, except that she seemed to stare out of the window every now and then, and for a very brief period she distracted herself with giving china painting lessons (Faulkner).
Despite the fact that these two unique characters lead very different lives, they both have similar perceptions of their lives. Elisa Allen's life, despite seeming to be full and vibrant, also seems to be lacking something. You never really see her being genuinely happy throughout the story, even when her husband tells her that he sold the livestock, or when he suggests they have a night out (Steinbeck). She seems content, but that is all. The author's description of her words only, without any kind of physical reaction to the thought of a night out, combined with the lack of luster in her words, shows how unaffected she is by what should be an exciting event. Her only response to the invitation is "Good . . . Oh, yes. That will be good" (Steinbeck). This response reveals a…[continue]
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