This story begins with a request for the narrator to come in and discuss her daughter. The narrator's response to this is "Who needs help" (199). Her response is a statement and not a question. It conveys the narrator's negative attitude about the type of help the social worker, society or etc. can give. The narrator thinks "Even if I came, what good would it do? You think because I am her mother I have a key, or that in some way you could use me as a key. She has lived for nineteen years. There is all that life that has happened outside of me, beyond me" (199). This shows that she does not believe that she could do anything for her daughter even if she did come. Women in the 1950s, as portrayed on television, were very involved in their children's lives. They were always on top of things. By making the narrator appear less than involved and knowledgeable about her daughter's life, the author is contradicting the mainstream view of a mother in the 1950s.
The initial request serves as the psychological motivation needed to cause the...
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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.
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