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In the story, I Stand Here Ironing, written by Tillie Olsen, Emily is the main character in which the author gives us insight on Emily’s tough childhood. The narrator only being nineteen years old when she brought Emily into the world. Throughout her life, Emily is always sick, and the narrator has trouble taking care of her. Later on, in the story, Emily becomes the second mother to her younger siblings and has to adjust to a new step-father. Emily struggles with being the “forgotten child”, always having health problems but soon, life turns around when she finds her talent of comedy.
First, Emily struggles with being the “forgotten child” if you will, the narrator is too busy working to take care of her.
When Emily was only eight months old, she was forced to stay with the neighbor while the narrator worked. When the narrator would pick Emily up after work, Emily would cry for her. Emily wanted the narrators love in a way she could not give to her.
Later on, Emily got sick and was sent to live with her fathers’ family. Soon after returning, Emily was sent to daycare. The narrator worked long exhausting hours and Emily would find any reason to stay home. In the story, Emily would tell the narrator, “Momma, you look sick. Momma I feel sick. Momma, the teachers aren’t here today, they’re sick. Momma, we can’t go, there was a fire there last night.
Momma, it’s a holiday today, no school, they told me.
” The narrator had no time for Emily, and she wanted the affection of her mother. Second, it always seemed Emily had some type of health problem. First, she got the chicken pocks which forced the narrator to send her to her fathers’ family, when the narrator got to her, she stated, “when she finally came, I hardly knew her…” When Emily was seven, she got the measles and was sent to a convalescent home somewhere in the country. There Emily spent eight months before the narrator could get her back home. Just when it could not get worse, Emily then gets tuberculosis, where she is then sent to another home. Being sent the other home pushed her education further which resulted in being called a “slower learner”.
The narrator did not have money to support Emily’s health so sending her into the homes is her way to help, even though it is pushing the narrator and Emily’s relationship further back. Finally, Emily’s breakthrough was when she took a leap of faith. The narrator told her to enter the school’s talent show, she entered the talent show and won first place. In the story, Emily calls the narrator in awe and says, “Mother, I did it. I won, I won; they gave me first prize; they clapped and clapped and wouldn’t let me go.” Although Emily’s talent was spreading, money became an issue again.
She began growing her talent and preforming all over the place, from other high schools to even statewide events. But without the funds she couldn’t live up to her potential. The narrator talks to Emily and tells her even though she had a rough childhood to never forget that she is a special person and has a gift. Emily’s bravery showed the narrator that she is special, and her talent turned her life around and gave her hope for the future. Emily’s childhood was far from perfect. There were health struggles, moments of loneliness, and feelings of not being good enough. But through a special talent, life turned around for Emily. Emily took a leap and it changed her world for the better and opened the narrator’s eyes to Emily’s future.
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