“I Stand Here Ironing”
Tillie Olsen's I Stand Here Ironing addresses the issue of a mother's guilt over how her child turns out and develops into a grown woman. Although she blames herself for the daughter's problems, is it really her fault? While this short story is obviously about the mousy daughter, the mother often mentions how she feels guilty for the way her daughter Emily is, for the things she (the mother) did and did not do. The ideal mother-daughter relationship is not like the one we find in this short story. This is neither the fault of the mother or the daughter.
At first, seemed a very naïve and weak girl in a big scary world, with society constantly nipping at her heels, but, as she lives, she learns to take life as it comes and try her hardest to do her best. Which at that time was not an easy task. The strength and love that the mother exhibits constantly keeps the idea of hope with the reader. The character of the mother is a determining factor in her attitude towards her daughter. As her character changed, so did her feelings about Emily. In the beginning of the story, the mother talks of how sorry and regretful she is of her daughter’s childhood. She looks at her unfortunate daughter, Emily, with pity, first of all, because of her uncontrollable circumstances in society. Despite the mother’s self-incriminating thoughts, the dents in the mold of their relationship were made by the harsh circumstances of their lives.
The mother's neighbor even tells her she should "smile at Emily more when you look at her.” Again towards the end of the story Emily's mother admits, "My wisdom came too late." The mother in I Stand Here Ironing speaks of Susan, "quick and articulate and assured, everything in appearance and manner Emily was not." Emily "thin and dark and foreign-looking at a time when every little girl was supposed to look or thought she should look like a chubby blonde replica of Shirley Temple.” Emily often showed resentment toward...
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