I Stand Here Ironing By Tillie Olsen

992 Words4 Pages
Motherhood is the journey a woman goes through as she raises her children, depicted in the media as a loving mother dealing with the antics and everyday happenings of her family. A mother is thought to be nurturing, supportive, and affectionate, meeting the emotional needs of her children. However, in Tillie Olsen’s “I Stand Here Ironing”, the reader is presented with the more realistic, harsh side of motherhood. The story is told in a regretful, wistful tone as the mother recounts the abysmal childhood of her oldest daughter, Emily, explaining why she is the person least likely to be able to help her. In “I Stand Here Ironing” Olsen, demonstrates the unrealistic standards parents— mothers specifically—are held too, the differences in single…show more content…
The key elements in “I Stand Here Ironing” are important, enabling the reader to grasp a deeper meaning of the text as more than just a story. Olsen utilizes flashbacks and major themes such as regret, guilt and ironing, in order to give insight into the problems that plague the mother. The story begins with a nameless character remarking to the mother “I wish you would manage the time to come in and talk with me about your daughter” (270). She is asked this question while she irons, a symbol Olsen uses to represent the mother’s desire to iron out the negativity in her daughter’s life, which she believes is caused by the mistakes she made as a young mother. She recounts her journey in motherhood, beginning with her experience as single parent. Olsen sets the story as the mother explains that “It was the pre-relief, pre-WPA world of the depression” (271). While recalling Emily’s early years, the mother has a…show more content…
The mother admits that the relationship between Emily and her siblings was rocky at best, and was particularly rough concerning the bond between Emily and her younger sister, Susan. The mother reveals that there was a “poisonous feeling between them” (271), caused by the “terrible balancing of hurts and needs” (273) the mother had to between them. Another reason the two sisters were at odds was because of Emily’s “corroding resentment” (273) towards Susan. Emily was “foreign-looking in a world where prestige went to blondness, she was slow where glibness was prized” (275), while Susan was the golden child, smart and articulate and seemingly “all that she [Emily] was not” (275). Olsen may be describing the physical difference between the two, but it can be noted that Olsen does this in order to also show the difference between the child raised with only one parent, compared to the child who was raised with two

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