Due Date: June 6, 2011
Short Fiction Reading Log
A Mother’s Struggle: Tillie Olsen’s “I Stand Here Ironing” Tillie Olsen’s “I Stand Here Ironing” examines a mother’s internal struggle about the way she raised her eldest daughter Emily. By opening with “I stand here ironing” the author depicts the oppressive world of domestic tasks that engulfed and forms the mother’s life.” The repetitive motion of the iron moving “back and forth” across the surface of the ironing board mimics the mother’s thought process as she moves back and forth over her life as a mother, attempting to identify the source of her daughter’s current difficulties. “You think because I am her mother I have a key, or that in some way you could use me as a key?” She doesn’t think she can make a difference in her daughter’s life. The reference to key that as a mother she should have and doesn’t, shows that the mother feels some sort of guilt and regret towards the inability to be there for her daughter. The reader empathizes with the mother when the mother describes her daughter weeping, “A weeping I can hear yet.” Especially significant is the setting in which the mother’s struggle took place “It was the pre-relief, pre-WPA, world of depression,” During the depression years, many single, working mother’s struggled with a lack of social services and financial support. This provides a glimpse into the mother’s experience of economic deprivation and her struggle. Though she viewed her daughter as “a miracle” she couldn’t spare the time for her daughter since she was working or looking for work. She mentions the father inability to conform to the life they had, for as he wrote in his note he “could no longer endure.” The mother’s internal struggle is apparent when she gets her daughter back and has to send her to nursery school. “It was the only place there was. It was the only way we could be together, the only way I could hold a job.” She reflects on the...
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