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Tillie Olsen’s “I Stand Here Ironing” Essay

Tillie Olsen’s “I Stand Here Ironing”, is a short story about how a mother and daughter relationship turns into a catastrophe until the end, as the mother watches the growth not only happen physically in her daughter but mentally as well, and shows the right decisions were made by both the mother and daughter. Imagery, diction, and tone, were used immensely in this story to show the analysis of the problem that is occurring. Tillie Olsen portrays how a mother who was young and inattentive in her daughter’s life can see how her daughter has truly matured into a bright and luminescent woman.

“ I Stand Here Ironing” shows to be a very remorseful and sorrowful tone. Olsen uses a quote that shows the past of Emily’s life. One states “Old enough for nursery school they said and I did not know then what I know now the lacerations of group life in nurseries that are only parking places for children. Except that it would have made no difference if I had known.” This is saying that it is a very heartbreaking position for the mother of having to put her young daughter in the only daycare she can afford. The mother in this story shows a form of repentance towards her daughter to show how bad she really does feel not being a part of her daughter’s life.

The mother in this story worked crazy hours working so she could provide for daughter, and give her the things she needs, rather than being a mother-figure in her life and staying home spending time with her kids. The mother in this story feels very sorrowful for not being there for her daughter and a quote states “You ought to do something about her with a gift like that but without money or knowing how, what does one do? This stating the fact that without money how can she provide for her daughter, without working all the time?

“I Stand Here Ironing”, shows the readers much imagery. Imagery in this story points out the problem occurring in the mother-daughter relationship. “She had to help be a mother, and housekeeper, and shopper.” The imagery in this quote provides the audience with background knowledge into why the mother says Emily acts as a child of her age. You can see that the mother thinks that Emily has to mature quickly in order to help provide and shows how she is already taking on the roles of a grown woman. This quote can show you that if the mother dpesn’t work non-stop, there is no way to provide for the life of Emily, whether Emily likes it or not.

“When she saw me she would break into a clogged weeping that could not be comforted, a weeping I can hear yet.” The quote here basically says that it is very heartbreaking for the mother to see that even when Emily was young, she didn’t communicate with her mom”. Just like now, how Emily’s ,mom is trying to tell her she’s working so much to provide for her, not for her own good. This is when she takes her own faults and uses them to help her become a strong and very independent woman that her mother believes she is. The mother wants what’s best for Emily and will do anything, to show how much she truly loves her.


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