“A Rose for Emily” and “A House of Flesh” – these two are two contrasting short stories written by two different writers from two different times. “A Rose for Emily” is written by William Faulkner (published in 1931) and the plot is set in an American city during the later part of the 19th and earlier part of the 20th century. On the other hand, “A House of Flesh” is written by famous Egyptian writer Yussef Idriss where the plot is set in Egypt during the latter half of the 20th century. Though the contexts of both stories are entirely different, some elements are there that shares some similarity. Like, the protagonists of both the stories are socially stranded and all the events of the stories take place in their houses which is surrounded by mystery.
“A Rose for Emily” is the story of Emily Grierson, a black woman living in Faulkner’s fictional city, Jefferson, Mississippi in the fictional county of Yoknapatawpha County. She lives in a once-elegant, upscale neighborhood where her house has become a topic of curiosity for the dwellers of the city. She uses to live a recluse life and barely interact with the neighbors or other people from society. It appears that psychologically she is disturbed and incidents like her denial about her father’s death bear the testimony of that. She gets married to a man called Homer Barron, who mysteriously disappear soon after. And then time comes when she succumbs to death and her house receives the visit of an outsider after many years. The town people discover the corpse of Homer Barron in a half decayed stage in the bedroom of the upstairs in her house.
On the contrary, the story of “A House of Flesh” relatively carries a simpler plot which meanders around the life of a widow, her three daughters whose age ranges from adolescence to early youth and a blind ‘muqri’ (who recites the holy Quran) who later gets married to the widow. Unlike Emily Grierson, the widow and her family do not belong to a high social class. The description of their house tells the fact. It is a house that consist one room and that is all. That little cage of four walls is where the life flows of four women. The only presence of male in that house is the Friday visits of the blind muqri. And one day when he stops visiting the house, the four women realize the blankness of his presence in their house that is dominated by silence. The daughters persuade the mother to marry him and that’s what she does. Now that they all start to live together, a new twist comes. The mother of the three realizes that her daughters, all three, establish physical bond with her young husband. A sin is committed and all four women and the blind man become aware of this. All of them know that what they are doing is adultery but no one tries to get out of this. The house keeps living in sin. And again silence fills the air of the house.
The first similarity that comes to attention is both the stories have women as the protagonists. And all of them are lonely. Emily has been brought up by his father and lives all by herself after his death. The situation is little different in the other house. Technically, there are four women and so they should not be alone. But if we follow the narration of the story we don’t really see the existence of the bond of sisters or the bond of mother-daughter. Despite they all live together, their lives are hardly interconnected. It is also notable that the significant male characters in the stories have actually been dominated by their female counterparts. Homer Barron becomes the victim of Emily where the blind muqri has been used or may be abused by the mother and daughters.
Secondly, the house stands as an important symbol in both the stories. Emily’s house is a monument in the city, just like herself. It is the subject of the intense, controlling gaze of the narrator and residents of Jefferson. Emily’s house represents the alienation and mental sickness. What happens inside the house is a mystery to the outsiders. But whatever happens, the town people get the feeling something is not right about it. It’s only Emily’s death that releases their chance to gain access to the forbidden realm and confirm what has occurred inside. On the contrast, the house of “A House of Flesh” is not a monumental establishment as Emily’s house. It’s situated somewhere in an Egyptian slum and people around do not really care what goes inside that tiny one roomed house. This house may not get any attention as the other one, but it too represents the metal sickness and inappropriate behavior of its dwellers. Emily might have just killed her husband but here the daughters and the mother kill has killed the spirit of relation. What they have done here is taboo and violated the social values. It reflects the perverted nature of all the members of the family.
Furthermore, silence is another important symbol in both the stories. “A House of the Flesh” starts with the silence as the father of the family is dead. The family members mourn and soon the mourning fades with silence. Then there is the occasional sound of recite by the blind man. But again silence envelops as he leaves. He comes back as husband and soon after they commit the sin and one after one, all of them become silent. And it ends with silence, just like the way it starts. But the silence in the house screams that what happens inside is unhealthy. In contrast to that, Emily herself lives in a kind of silence. She never talks until she needs to. Most of her life she lives alone. Even when she talks, a different kind of silence prevails. When the city officials visit her about the tax payment issue or when she asks the pharmacist for the poison, she hardly talks. But that kind of silence actually put a different kind of weight in her attitude. A fear for her runs across the mind of others. This is something that is not usual, not convenient for others to absorb.
Another interesting similarity between the stories is the style of narration. Both the stories are told by an invisible narrator. He does not exist in either of the stories but that’s what makes the narration more trust-worthy. If the narrators were one of the characters of the stories, there is chance that the point of view provided may have been little deviated. Since both the stories deals with the psychological disorders, it was essential that narration remains unbiased.
Apart from the points discussed above, both the stories have showed different patterns of human custom that is not natural and healthy. For instance, year after year Emily’s living with a dead man does not only shows the mental misbalance, it could also be seen as the practice of exorcism. On the contrary, “A House of Flesh” does not depict any such practice of supernatural spirits. But it shows practice of adultery and incest which is a major violation of social ethics and values. Both the story presents the dark side of human nature that is simply not acceptable according to our social values.
It is also notable that the power of death plays important role in both the stories. “A Rose for Emily” starts with the death of Emily and also tells about the death of her father and finally reveals the death of Home Barron. With each death the story unfolds its mystery a little. Similarly, “A House of Flesh” starts with the death of the father. There is no death that follows after but that death paved the way to put light on the darker side of the family.
“A Rose for Emily” and “A House of Flesh”- they are little masterpieces from the writers of two very different backgrounds. But what is adorable about both the stories is their openness and flexibility. The possibilities for interpretation of them are endless, and it inspires very creative interpretations, in large part because of their unconventional style. In fact, both the stories have something for just about everyone.