Compare and Contrast Essay on ‘The Lesson’ and ‘A Rose for Emily’

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"The Lesson" by Toni Cade Bambara and "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner are two compelling short stories that explore the themes of social inequality, power dynamics, and the effects of change on individuals and communities. This comparative essay will examine the similarities and differences between the two stories in terms of their narrative styles, themes, and characterizations. Both stories offer thought-provoking commentary on society and present complex characters facing different challenges within their respective contexts.

Narrative Style

"The Lesson" is narrated in the first-person perspective by Sylvia, a young African-American girl living in a low-income neighborhood. Her colloquial and authentic voice adds a sense of realism to the story, drawing readers into her world. In contrast, "A Rose for Emily" is narrated from the perspective of an unnamed member of the town, offering a collective viewpoint on the life of Emily Grierson. This third-person omniscient perspective allows readers to witness the events from a broader and more detached perspective, emphasizing the town's gossip and speculations about Emily's life.

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Both stories explore themes of social inequality and the effects of power dynamics, albeit in different contexts. "The Lesson" focuses on the disparities between social classes and the awakening of young characters to the realities of inequality. The central theme of education and the unequal distribution of resources and opportunities is explored through the characters' visit to a high-end toy store. In "A Rose for Emily," the theme of power dynamics is portrayed through the character of Emily Grierson, who holds a privileged position in her community. The story highlights the oppressive nature of power and the consequences of isolation and resistance to change.


The characters in "The Lesson" and "A Rose for Emily" exhibit distinct traits and undergo different journeys. In "The Lesson," Sylvia is a perceptive and sharp-witted young girl who becomes aware of the social disparities between her community and the affluent neighborhood they visit. Her growth and realization of the inequities around her serve as a catalyst for change and reflection. In contrast, Emily Grierson in "A Rose for Emily" is portrayed as a complex and enigmatic figure. Her character is defined by her resistance to change and her adherence to tradition, which ultimately leads to her tragic downfall. The contrasting portrayals of the characters reflect their different responses to the challenges and societal pressures they face.


"The Lesson" and "A Rose for Emily" are two powerful short stories that delve into themes of social inequality, power dynamics, and the effects of change on individuals and communities. While both stories explore these themes, they do so in different narrative styles, with unique characterizations and contexts. Through their storytelling, Bambara and Faulkner offer poignant commentary on the complexities of human experiences and the societal forces that shape individuals' lives. These stories continue to resonate with readers, reminding us of the importance of examining social structures and power dynamics in understanding the human condition.

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Compare and Contrast Essay on ‘The Lesson’ and ‘A Rose for Emily’. (2023, September 07). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 25, 2024, from
“Compare and Contrast Essay on ‘The Lesson’ and ‘A Rose for Emily’.” Edubirdie, 07 Sept. 2023,
Compare and Contrast Essay on ‘The Lesson’ and ‘A Rose for Emily’. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Jul. 2024].
Compare and Contrast Essay on ‘The Lesson’ and ‘A Rose for Emily’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Sept 07 [cited 2024 Jul 25]. Available from:

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