A common theme in literature

Literature can produce so many themes accumulated from different aspects of life. Authors around the world have utilized almost all the possible concepts, ideologies and themes that could ever exist. As one reads a story, different comparisons can be made regarding other stories as well.

Due to the vast capability of literature, there are so many possible similarities that can be well-correlated from stories after stories. Several stories aim to project one common theme.

Though most are hidden behind all the well-written flowery words, most themes and concepts can be well realized as a story progresses. Upon reading a story, many readers can analyze the main message being tried to convey by an author.

There are so many themes to choose from due to the vast freedom of authors. In this paper, a recurring theme of illusion vs. reality can be concluded with regards to three different short stories, namely “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner, “The Rich Brother” by Tobias Wolff, and “A Pair of Tickets” by Amy Tan.

Illusion vs. Reality in “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner

In order to understand the whole message of this story, there is a need for the adequate provision of analysis. This story is about an eccentric spinster named Emily Grierson.

Her life is narrated bu an unnamed narrator who discusses her bizarre relationship with her lover, her father and with the whole town of Jefferson along with her hidden terrible secrets.

The story seemed to be a very mediocre one not until the end. The horrific conclusion had assisted readers on what the true persona of Ms. Emily Grierson really was. That twist in the ending made the whole beginning and middle part of the story become preparatory concurrences of the possible realizations.

Linking the theme of illusion versus reality with this story can be very easily assessed. The whole reality factor all relied on the essence of the changing generations and the spinning wheel of time that passed Miss Emily.

The illusion part is the one where she still dwells in the past and even resulting to killing her love in order to stay at the past. She was just so lost with reality that  she led her life more on the illusion side. Emily completely lived her life stuck in the past. When the new Board of

Alderman approached her she exclaimed that Colonel Sartoris that she had no takes in the town of Jefferson but during this occurrence, Colonel Sartoris was already dead for ten years. Her life revolved around in the past as if time did not exist.

She locked herself inside her house in order to dwell on her own world that was unreal. Emily’s desire of the past even led him to murder Homer Barron to keep him in the past with her.

This story reminds readers that such is the power of the mind that it can alter an individual’s perception in life and even cause him or her to lead to doing horrendous actions.

This reality of Ms. Emily was only existing in here point of view. The whole town represented the present and the true reality, while Ms. Emily Grierson represented the past and a symbolic characterization of illusion.

Illusion vs. Reality in “The Rich Brother” by  Tobias Wolff

The story behind “The Rich Brother” is about two brothers namely Donald and Pete. Pete is the older brother who is much more successful than his younger brother Donald. Pete is a typical middle-class man of success that has enough money due to real estate, a great wife, a couple of daughters, a beautiful house and a sailboat.

His younger brother Pete on the other hand has no family and lives alone. His job is painting houses and he usually stays in an ashram in Berkeley. In terms of financial needs, Donald always goes to Pete in times of needs. But other than this, Donald is a pure, kind-hearted, and spiritual type of guy.

It’s link to the concept of reality versus illusion is represented through the baffling question of which brother needs more of the other brother? Who is the more independent than the other?

In realistic terms, Pete seemed to be the more able brother who almost has everything. while Donald on the other hand is a man who always seem to be in need and displays his dependence on his brother. But there is a huge difference on the true message of this story. In Pete’s dream, he was blind and he badly needs Donald to help him.

Analyzing the story even more, the representation of the blindness of Pete is considered as blindness from faith. Though externally, Pete has been a wealthy man, almost having the resources that a normal man could ever have, he still is not as rich on the inside as Donald. Donald is the representation of a spiritual guide which in turn represents his importance to Pete.

Illusion is contrasted with reality in this story through the aspect of Pete and Donald’s inner and outer status in life. People are made to believe that Pete is the richer guy in a lot of things but in reality, Donald has everything that a man could ever really need, faith.

Illusion vs. Reality in “A Pair of Tickets” by Amy Tan

This story is narrated through Jandale’s eyes. She is a Chinese-American woman who’s trying to gain more knowledge about her Chinese culture and the past of his mother. This story can be easily related to by women readers due to the fact that it is narrated by a woman and the story revolves around this character.

This story largely revolves around the journey towards self-identification and cultural recognition. Before, Jandale never really understood her past, her roots and her identity as half-Chinese and half-American. The journey helped her become a complete person and an individual of more knowledge about the world especially of her culture.

Like many other people who can’t accept their past and their family’s past, Jandale never really embraced her life’s history before. But still, that thought of accepting everything, even the past, has become the driving force for Jandale to finally conclude that her life is complete.

Her past, culture and her mother’s past haunted her to realize it and achieve something that could make her feel at ease and make her mother’s dreams complete.

Her mother never got to see her two twin half-sisters which were abandoned due to their family’s attempt to escape the Japanese. It was Jandale’s turn to provide to accomplish that missed dream of her mother.

The link of reality versus illusion in this story tells that no matter what happens in life, the truth is that family will always be family and that we should not ignore our cultural heritage. Our lives may change from time to time due to many events that may alter it.

But nonetheless, we can’t escape the fact that there is a reality about who are family is and where did we really come from. Reality slaps us in the face and assists us to realize our life’s true essence and meaning.


It is true that many stories that have been told through the years almost reflect a common message but expresses and narrates it in so many different ways. The stories  “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner, “The Rich Brother” by Tobias Wolff, and “A Pair of Tickets” by Amy Tan, tell us that within the confines of everything, there is still the true reality that matters most in our life.

Though in some cases, it would seem hard to find the true meaning of reality in our lives due to the many illusions that we impose in ourselves, truth be told, in the end, reality is all that we’ve got. We can’t escape reality and we should never be blinded by illusions.

With the characters of Emily, Pete and Jandale, we could see that there perceptions about reality may have been different from each other, but in the end reality wins over all the illusions and unrealistic perceptions in life.

Fallon, E., et. al. (2001). A Reader’s Companion to the Short Story in English. Westport, CT:      Greenwood Press.

Faulkner, W. (n.d.) A Rose for Emily. Retrieved July 13,  2008, from,             http://www.ariyam.com/docs/lit/wf_rose.html.

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