Unconditional Love in "I Stand Here Ironing" and "Everyday Use"

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Ashley Gillette
Professor Grimes
ENG 171
24 June 2010
Unconditional Love in “I Stand Here Ironing” and “Everyday Use” Unconditional love is a term used to describe complete love. It is affection with no limits or conditions (“Unconditional”). "I Stand Here Ironing" by Tillie Olsen and "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker are stories about a mother's unconditional love toward her daughter. Both stories stem from an intense guilt felt by the mother’s in each story. Both mothers’ feel guilty for the problems that their daughters face. Emily’s mother thought of Emily’s childhood as she ironed. Metaphorically, Tillie Olsen described the mother ironing her daughter’s dress as she mentally attempted to “iron” out her daughter’s childhood and their relationship. Through a stream-of-consciousness monologue, the reader could sense that Emily’s mother regretted her decision to have the women below their apartment baby-sit Emily while she worked (or looked for a job). She also regretted leaving Emily with her father’s family while her mother worked nights at a job. Most of all, she regretted sending Emily away during her childhood to a convalescent home. In a different way, Mrs. Johnson, the mother of Maggie and Dee in “Everyday Use,” is guilty in the way she parented her daughters. Dee, or “Wangero” as she prefers to be called, was educated and successful, while her sister, Maggie, still lived at home in the South with her mother. Because of Dee’s manipulative behavior, Mrs. Johnson worked hard at raising money in order to send Dee away to school. However, Maggie was forced to remain at home and learn traditional skills because Mrs. Johnson only raised enough money to send one daughter. Despite the choices that each mother makes, in the end the reader senses the unconditional love that each have toward their daughter. Emily’s mother described Emily as a beautiful baby. She commented that “she was a miracle to me” (Charters 671). Although her mother...
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