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Mother Daughter Relationship in I Stand Here Ironing by Tillie Olsen

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Mother Daughter Relationship in I Stand Here Ironing by Tillie Olsen “I Stand Here Ironing” by Tillie Olsen If Only.... Almost every parent dreams of giving their children what they never had growing up. However, unavoidable situations cannot be changed and we are forced to make do with what life gives us. Life’s twists and turns are not always predicted, we get caught up with other things and lose sight of the important ones. In the story, “I Stand Here Ironing,” Tillie Olsen portrays the life and regret of a young single mother struggling to raise her daughter Emily. Olsen points out through uncontrollable circumstances in society, Emily’s mother is forced to become a working-class mother who must hold down a job and care for her child. To many the ideal mother-daughter relationship is not like the one we find is this story. This is neither the fault of the mother nor daughter. In the beginning, while she is ironing, the mother of a nineteen-year-old girl reflects on her daughter’s childhood. She is caught between feeling responsible for Emily’s unhappy childhood and realizes that she was powerless in making her life better due to the lack of alternatives. As she is ironing, the mother remembers back to when her eldest daughter was an infant. She was a young, inexperienced mother who followed “like the books said” (204) and considered Emily to be “the first and only one of [her] five [children] that was beautiful at birth” (203). During the worst years of the Depression, her husband deserts the family leaving them to fend for themselves. With no money or savings available to support the two, her mother is forced to find work and Emily is handed over to a variety of temporary ... ... middle of paper ... ... her child. Olsen articulates the difficulties, obstacles, and struggles faced with non-privileged families in the story. The character of the mother in “I Stand Here Ironing” is one that is strong and wise. Throughout the story, she reflects on various events in Emily’s life that shaped the person she is today: self-sufficient and independent. At first while she is still young, she looks at her helpless daughter with guilt and pity because she is not able to give her the life she deserves. However, Emily grows into a young adult woman, Olsen points out the mother soon realizes that her daughter is a lovely, capable woman with potential. Her only hope is that Emily herself can and will realize it for herself. Olsen’s suggest that our circumstances shape who we are, but no matter the situation, we can still overcome them because there is potential in everyone.
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