This is a circumstance which mirrored Olsons real life as well as a young mother in the early 1960s when opportunities were starting to open up for women but were as they are today. In that spirit, the book serves as a portrayal as an example of the unfairness of womens lives. In the book, the narrator who is left unnamed, reflects on her distant relationship with her eldest daughter named Emily. The book is an expansion on the story about mother and daughter and their need to identify themselves despite living in a broken home during the Great Depression and trying to make ends meet.
Gradually, the mother reveals that she was only nineteen herself when Emily, the daughter was born and due to the fact that there was no welfare system in place at the time, she was forced to leave Emily with the family of the father who left her. The narrator recalls how different Emily was from her siblings; she did not smile or laugh easily. The narrator has loved her as much as the others but was unable to learn how to show this most important human affection. The narrator ties into this circumstance, the fact that Emily is very different from her siblings and does not laugh or show emotion easily.
To make matter worse, Emily develops a severe case of the measles and she is quarantined from her mother and siblings again. The measles becomes too severe that Emily is sent to a convalescent home in the country. By the time she is allowed to come home, she is a skeleton of herself, both physically and emotionally as it is now impossible to give or receive any amount of physical affection. Later in Emilys development, she is still finding her past as a major impediment to her personal growth. Emily has no concern for the future and for her schooling and exams as well.
Despite all of the attempts by Emilys family, no effort proves fruitful and the narrator informs the reader that the family has come to the consensus that they will let her be and will leave her alone. There is an unmistakable boundary between the identities of the mother and daughter despite the fact that they both have very similar pasts. But the asking for help is what the narrator finds difficult when it comes to the assistance needed to help her daughter. You think that 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. The story and the narrator present the development of both mother and daughter as incomplete. The daughter is still trying to find herself and her level of independence and the mother is struggling with her guilt that she feels by abandoning her daughter and the consequences Emily has suffered because of it. A deep sense of deprivation pervades I Stand Here Ironing. The mother describes numerous limitations she has had to confront: poverty, abandonment by her first husband, housework, and motherhood itself. The limited resources of the mother limit the daughter as well.
The mother feels helpless to encourage her daughters budding talent as an actress. Both the daughter and mother appear to be apathetic about their circumstances and the future by the end of the story. The daughter decides to sleep late and miss her exams because she says that at atom bomb is going to hit and everybody is going to be dead anyways. It is a sad story and a story of two individuals, important to each other, never being able to connect as a family should because of their inability to rise above their circumstances which served as an impediment too great for them to overcome.
WORKS CITED Byrne, Marie. The Essence of Tillie Olson. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press. 1999 I chose this book because I found the person of Tillie Olson, a person that I had never heard before, as a fascinating one. Her life and the decades of struggle for womens rights was one that needed to be addressed and studied. In the situation that she came up in and the impediments that she faced by not only her time in American History but as a single mother as well was a story that I needed to first understand, as well as a third party could before I was to write on any of her works.
Olson, Tillie. I Stand Here Ironing. New York: Dell Publishing, 1994 This book was chosen since it serves as the text for the book. This was read also to obtain direct quotes from the book and to reread a number of passages that I, at first, did not understand its importance in relation to the flow of the story. The book gives a brief summary of the biographical information of Tillie Olsen and the other accomplishments that she had other than her writing career. Revere, John. Charlestons Times Courier: Tillie Olson: January 3, 2007.
I was surprised to discover that the death of Tillie Olsen had only occurred last month. When this was discovered, I looked at some newspapers for the day in order to find any obituaries on this person. And to my surprise, an extensive version was found and I was able to put a name to a face; something that I have always found helpful when trying to understand a person. The article detailed the accomplishments of Tillie Olsen and what her peers and readers alike had to say about her in a contemporary context.