Expressing Theme with Point of View, Tone, and Word Choice
Raising a family can be tough in the best of conditions. For a young mother in the midst of a war and a depression, raising a child can be absolutely tumultuous. Tillie Olsen’s “I Stand Here Ironing” recants one mother’s struggle to connect with her daughter and still overcome the adversities placed upon her. One of the central themes of this narrative is a mother’s guilt over not being able to connect with her daughter. This disconnection is brought on by external forces such as poverty and social oppression as well as the inexperience of being a mother. Olson, in her story "I Stand Here Ironing," reflects this guilt and emotional disconnection through point of view, tone, and word choice
Olsen begins to demonstrate the emotional distance between the narrator and her mother through the point of view in which she tells the story. The entire piece is written using an interior monologue. The monologue is addressed to the person who requested that the mother come in to give some insight into Emily. However, it is a private response than a face-to-face conversation. The narrator describes her turmoil and troubles she has had in raising Emily, but only to herself. In this way she is not taking any legitimate steps to her; choosing instead to remain uninvolved and unconnected. Had Olsen chosen to write with a different point of view, the mother could have appeared neglectful. By using this method of writing, the audience is able to sense the mother’s remorse rather than blame her.
The interior monologue aspect of stream-of- consciousness allows Olsen the freedom in sentence structure of this story. As the mother reflects on the miseries that have shaper her relationship with Emily, the thoughts are often jumbled and rambling. The angst the mother feels is revealed as she is trying to “total” (p. 467 & 472) all that has happened in their impoverished lives. Because this is a...
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