Why Compare Kincaid's "Girl" and Olsen's "I Stand Here Ironing"

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Why compare Tillie Olsen’s “I Stand Here Ironing” and Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” Daughter and mother relationship is an endless topic for many writers. They meant to share the bond of love and care for each other. Nevertheless, in the real world their relationship is not as successful as it ought to be. The stories “Girl” and “I Stand Here Ironing” are examples of this conflict. The author of the short story “Girl” Jamaica Kincaid was born and raised up to the age of seventeen in Antigua, a former colony of Great Britain. In her short story “Girl”, Kincaid presents the experience of being young and female in a poor country. The story is structured as a single sentence of advice that a mother gives to her daughter. The mother expresses her resents and worries about her daughter becoming a woman. The author of “I Stand Here Ironing” is Tillie Olsen, an American writer of Russian-Jewish descendent. Similarly her story portrays powerfully the economic domestic burdens a poor woman faced, as well as the responsibility and powerlessness she feels over her child’s life. Moreover, the woman is grieving about her daughter's life and about the circumstances that shaped her own mothering. Both stories have many features in common. Not only do they explore the troubles that could exist in the relationship between mother and daughter, but also they raise questions about motherhood, especially when a mother lives on a shoestring, the stories explore the difficulties that a young mother has to endure while raising her child in poverty. Although the two stories refer to different place and time, they share the theme of poverty. On the one hand, “I Stand Here Ironing” is set in 1950s in the USA. However, it also gives some account of 1930s and 1940s as it follows the life of the author from birth till early adolescence. During this period the USA suffered one of its deepest crises and also participated in WWII. We can easily presume how poor the conditions of life in America were at that time. Furthermore, the story itself tells us a lot about the difficulties the young mother had to face while raising her daughter. “Girl” is probably set in 1960s, since we know Kincaid was born in 1949. The place of the story is Antigua, a country, part of the West Indies that had its independence in 1967. Similarly to the States during the time of the Great Depression, Antigua was under the pressure of abject poverty. The narrator in “I Stand Here Ironing” is not referred by name or described physically. The reader assumes her identity through the explanation she gives of her relationship with her eldest daughter, Emily. The narrator has endured a great deal of hardship in her life. At the age of nineteen, she was left by her husband. Besides at that time Emily was only about one year old. Furthermore, the narrator was left with no support from the father and she had to take care of her child during the worst time of the Great Depression. Due to the fact that the narrator had to work long hours, the raising of the daughter had been left with no sufficient attention. The narrator in “Girl” also is not referred by name or described physically. Throughout the story it seems obvious that all of commands and warnings are said by the mother to her daughter. The aim of all these instructions is to help the daughter learn all a woman should know. Although the mother does nearly all of the talking and there is no action or exposition, there is much that can be guessed about the relationship between the two. According to Rahakrishnan, there should be “a comparison between life worlds and ways of being” as well as knowledge about the characters’ world with its functioning and its particular representations. In “I Stand Here Ironing” the narrator is analysing her own mistakes throughout Emily’s life. She is reflecting where did she do wrong with the uprising of her daughter. On the other hand, in “Girl” the narrator gives no options to her listener, her daughter),...
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