I Stand Here Ironing: Character Analysis of Emily Essay

I Stand Here Ironing: Character Analysis of Emily Essay

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The short story “I Stand Here Ironing” (1961) by Tillie Olsen is a touching narration of a mother trying to understand and at the same time justifying her daughter’s conduct. Frye interprets the story as a “meditation of a mother reconstructing her daughter’s past in an attempt to express present behavior” (Frye 287). An unnamed person has brought attention and concern to her mother expressing, “‘She’s a youngster who needs help and whom I’m deeply interested in helping’” (Olsen 290). Emily is a nineteen-year-old complex girl who is atypical, both physically and in personality.

Emily’s upbringing is plagued with difficulties. She is the first-born of a young mother and the eldest of five brothers and sisters. As a baby, she is constantly left at the care of others while her mother had to work after her father abandons them. Additionally, she is often sick, triggering a series of events that have emotionally affected her life. She definitely experiences a “stressful growth” (Frye 288).

As a little girl, Emily clearly indicates to be unlike most children her age. For starters, various illnesses tremendously affect Emily’s physique which makes her look different compared to other little girls. Even her mother expresses “All the baby loveliness gone” (Olsen 291), after had gotten chicken pox. Another consequence derived from being constantly sick is that she looks fragile, “Skeleton thin” (Olsen 292).
Unfortunately, she is full aware of not fulfilling the stereotype of a girl her age and she does not like it, Olsen’s narrator clearly states:

She fretted about her appearance, thin and dark and foreign-looking at a time
when every little girl was supposed to look or thought she should look a chubby
blonde replica of Shirl...


... middle of paper ...


... affect her future.

Certainly, Emily is remarkably different in many ways due to a “troubled, lonely childhood” (Frye 288). She has a series of features that makes her unique. In terms of physical appearance, she is thin and dark looking because of health problems. As for personality she is insecure however behaves well and she does not show her emotions. Perhaps her complexity gives the idea or the impression that she needs help and people perceive her as a troubled girl.


Works Cited
Frye, Joanne S. "'I STAND HERE IRONING': MOTHERHOOD AS EXPERIENCE AND
METAPHOR." Studies in Short Fiction 18.3 (1981): 287. Academic Search Complete.
EBSCO. Web. 17 Mar. 2011.
Olsen, Tillie. “I Stand Here Ironing.” Ed. Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen R. Mendell.
Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing. Compact Seventh Edition. Boston: Wadsworth,
2011. 290-296. Print.

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