Every parent knows how difficult it is to make decisions in the best interest of their children. There is always some doubt in the back of the mind, what if this happens or that happens. Tillie Olsen shows in her story “I Stand Here Ironing” the conflict and the results of one mother’s decisions. She illustrates the back, forth motion of the iron as the back and forth doubts in the mother’s mind. The detachment between mother and daughter in “I Stand Here Ironing” is understandable. The mother struggles daily with the decisions she made while her oldest child Emily was a young baby and toddler. Obstacles in Emily’s life have made it hard for her mother to forget these decisions, and life with Emily only reinforces these decisions.
Emily’s mother struggles when asked to help an outsider understand who Emily is. Her thoughts are perplexing; she tries constantly to accept the relationship between herself and Emily, the distance between them emotionally. There is a constant internal fight as to the choices she had made when Emily was just an infant. Her baby was a miracle, one that she treasured deeply. However, when she was left to raise her alone, she had to send her off to live with relatives and strangers in order to work. These early years are the most crucial times in a child’s life, the years that attachment and bonding happen. Emily’s not being able to live with her mother inevitably limited these connections from forming. Emily’s mother recalls a time having to leave her with a sitter while she went to work and when she returned from work; the response was crushing, “when she saw me, she would break into a clogged weeping,” (Olsen). Clogged acts as the visual word here. Emily was unable to cry the tears she should have cri...
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...ving to raise a child on her own was not the life she had imagined. She had no experience to go by; only what the books told her was right and wrong. She did the best that she was able given her circumstances. The mother tells the person that has asked help to understand Emily to “let her be.” (Olsen) She tells herself that Emily has become all that she is going to become. Because of the world around and the decisions made by her mother, she will not have the opportunity to become more. However, to her mother she is perfect the way she is. She feels she has failed her in a way “my wisdom came too late, she has much to her and probably little will come of it.” (Olsen) Her mother doesn’t want her to settle, “help her to know that she is more than this dress on the ironing board.” (Olsen) She wants better for Emily; she does not have to conform to the world around her.
Tillie Olsen makes the narrator contradict the ideal housewife of the 1950s image for a reason. By doing this, she shows that even if you are a less than perfect mother and or housewife, it is not always your fault if things go wrong. For instance, if the narrator in this story exemplified the image of a 50s housewife, we, the readers, would not even consider blaming her for Emily's condition as well as for her relationship with Emily. However, the narrator does not exemplify the ideal image of a housewife. Thus, we, as the audience, are compelled to blame her imperfections. However, as the story goes on, it is realized that the narrator did the best that she could for Emily. She was a first time mother with no safety net. Her situation as a single mother and sole provider during Emily's early years left her with no choice. She did what she had to do.
We had long thought of them as a tableau, Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door. So when she got to be thirty and was still single, we were not pleased exactly, but vindicated; even with insanity in the family she wouldn 't have turned down all of her chances if they had really materialized.’ (25) This complete sheltering leaves Emily to play into with in her own deprived reality within her own mind, creating a skewed perception of reality and relationships”(A Plastic Rose,
... she also believes Emily turned out well, because she is not helpless and she can find her way. Emily’s mother realizes she has no control over the circumstances, now only the ability to respond to them and to learn from the experiences. This allows a reconciling process to occur within her, because although she was not able to raise Emily like she wanted to, she did the best she could under the circumstances.
At the beginning of the story Emily is just an ordinary little girl, but as the story continues she begins to feel herself changing. By the end of the story, Emily has gained self-consciousness and thinks of herself not as an ordinary little girl but as “Emily”.
Life is sad and tragic; some of which is made for us and some of which we make ourselves. Emily had a hard life. Everything that she loved left her. Her father probably impressed upon her that every man she met was no good for her. The townspeople even state “when her father died, it got about that the house was all that was left to her; and in a way, people were glad…being left alone…She had become humanized” (219). This sounds as if her father’s death was sort of liberation for Emily. In a way it was, she could begin to date and court men of her choice and liking. Her father couldn’t chase them off any more. But then again, did she have the know-how to do this, after all those years of her father’s past actions? It also sounds as if the townspeople thought Emily was above the law because of her high-class stature. Now since the passing of her father she may be like them, a middle class working person. Unfortunately, for Emily she became home bound.
As time went on pieces from Emily started to drift away and also the home that she confined herself to. The town grew a great deal of sympathy towards Emily, although she never hears it. She was slightly aware of the faint whispers that began when her presence was near. Gossip and whispers may have been the cause of her hideous behavior. The town couldn’t wait to pity Ms. Emily because of the way she looked down on people because she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth and she never thought she would be alone the way her father left her.
Emily’s mother is just a teenager when she had Emily. She did not have the money or resources to take care of her, so she had to let Emily live with her grandparents for a couple of years before she could get Emily back. When Emily was two, her mother finally got her custody of her, but Emily is not the little girl she remembered. When the mother first had Emily, she described her as a beautiful baby (302), but it changed when Emily became sickly and got scars from chicken pox. The mother said, “When she finally came, I hardly knew her, walking quick and nervous like her father, looking like her father, thin, and dressed in a shoddy red that yellowed her skin and glared at the pockmarks. All the baby loveliness gone. (302)” Nevertheless, the mother is never there for Emily as she grew up. Emily tried to show her mother in different ways that she needed her, but she never seemed to catch the hint. For example, when Emily was two her mother sent her to a nursery school. The teacher of the nursery school was mistreating the children, and instead of telling her mother directly like the other kids told their parents, she told her in different ways. She always had a reason why we should stay home. Momma, you look sick. Momma, I feel sick. Momma, the teachers aren’t there today, they’re sick. Momma, we can’t go, there was a fire there last night. Momma, it’s a holiday
From the beginning of Emily's life she is separated from those she needed most, and the mother's guilt tears at the seams of a dress barely wrinkled. Emily was only eight months old when her father left her and her mother. He found it easier to leave than to face the responsibilities of his family's needs. Their meager lifestyle and "wants" (Olsen 601) were more than he was ready to face. The mother regrettably left the child with the woman downstairs fro her so she could work to support them both. As her mother said, "She was eight months old I had to leave her daytimes" (601). Eventually it came to a point where Emily had to go to her father's family to live a couple times so her mother could try to stabilize her life. When the child returned home the mother had to place her in nursery school while she worked. The mother didn't want to put her in that school; she hated that nursery school. "It was the only place there was. It was the only way we could be toge...
Emily was kept confined from all that surrounded her. Her father had given the town folks a large amount of money which caused Emily and her father to feel superior to others. “Grierson’s held themselves a little too high for what they really were” (Faulkner). Emily’s attitude had developed as a stuck-up and stubborn girl and her father was to blame for this attitude. Emily was a normal girl with aspirations of growing up and finding a mate that she could soon marry and start a family, but this was all impossible because of her father. The father believed that, “none of the younger man were quite good enough for Miss Emily,” because of this Miss Emily was alone. Emily was in her father’s shadow for a very long time. She lived her li...
Emily father was highly favored in the town. Faulkner writes in his Short Story Criticism, “The Griersons have always been “high and mighty,” somehow above “the gross, teeming world….” Emily’s father was well respected and occasionally loaned the town money. That made her a wealthy child and she basically had everything a child wanted. Emily’s father was a very serious man and Emily’s mind was violated by her father’s strict mentality. After Emily’s father being the only man in her life, he dies and she find it hard to let go of him. Because of her father, she possessed a stubborn outlook on life and how thing should be. She practically secluded her self from society for the remainder of her life.
Emily’s isolation is evident because after the men that cared about her deserted her, either by death or simply leaving her, she hid from society and didn’t allow anyone to get close to her. Miss Emily is afraid to confront reality. She seems to live in a sort of fantasy world where death has no meaning. Emily refuses to accept or recognize the death of her father, and the fact that the world around her is changing.
The domineering attitude of Emily's father keeps her to himself, inside the house, and alone until his death. In his own way, Emily's father shows her how to love. Through a forced obligation to love only him, as he drives off young male callers, he teaches his daughter lessons of love. It is this dysfunctional love that resurfaces later, because it is the only way Emily knows how to love.
Growing up Emily’s father, Mr. Gierson, made her stay in the house and not socialize with others. He taught her that he was only trying to protect her from the outside world. Mr.Gierson was a rude man who felt that things should go his way; therefore, his daughter hopelessly fell for him because she did not know any oth...