I Stand Here Ironing: The 1950s Woman Essay

I Stand Here Ironing: The 1950s Woman Essay

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What do Betty from "Pleasantville," June from "Leave it to Beaver," and Donna Reed from "The Donna Reed Show" all have in common? They all represent the image of the perfect housewife in the 1950s. They represent women who gladly cooked, cleaned, dressed in pearls and wore high heals while waiting for their all-knowing husbands to come home. They represent women who can only find fulfillment in male domination and nurturing maternal love. Tillie Olsen, as a single mother with four children (204), provides readers with another view of women. Through the representation of the narrator in I Stand Here Ironing, Olsen contradicts the image of the 50s ideal woman, a happy housewife and a perfect mother.

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...


... middle of paper ...


...wisdom.

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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