I Stand Here Ironing

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Literary Research Paper – I Stand Here Ironing
Kloss, Robert J. "Balancing the Hurts and the Needs: Olsen's 'I Stand Here Here Ironing,'." Journal of Evolutionary Psychology 15.1-2 (Mar. 1994): 78-86. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Jeffrey W. Hunter and Deborah A. Schmitt. Vol. 114. Detroit: Gale Group, 1999. Literature Resource Center. Web. 23 Mar. 2012.

Kloss’s, "Balancing the Hurts and the Need Olsen's 'I Stand Here Ironing'", points out that in the story, we get motherhood "stripped of romantic distortion." Kloss describes motherhood as a metaphor of developing a responsible selfhood, concluding that "We must trust the power of each to 'find her way' even in the face of powerful external constraints on individual control." He also points out that from the mother's point of view, this may indeed be true, as she attempts in extreme adversity to balance her own hurts and needs. Kloss however states that common sense tells us that this simply cannot be true for the child. Given her helplessness, what infant or toddler can possibly have it within her power or control to "find her own way." He backs up his idea by pointing out the fact that while the mother can find reasonable and mature ways to satisfy her own needs and allay her hurts (e.g., a job, a new husband), Emily must somehow, first as infant, then child, cope with and defend against persistent, overwhelming fears and fantasies as best she can. Kloss brings out the point that caring figures always come and go--the woman downstairs, the grandparents, the mother, and the nurses. As the child moved from house to house to institution to yet another house, even the environment itself does not remain stable. Kloss goes on to describe the child's vantage point, it seems clear that nothing or no one can be depended on. That these separations are traumatic to Emily can readily be inferred from the fact that they eventuate in significant symptoms such as a depression, asthma and as separation anxiety disorder. Kloss supports his idea by stating that the sleep disorders typical of separation anxiety disorder also begin with Susan's birth when Emily begins having nightmares, crying out for the mother. He continues with his explanation of the mother who refuses to tend her in her anguish and gets up only twice when she has to get up for Susan anyway. The mother's indifference may be due to her exhaustion and distraction, but it is also possible to see it as stemming from hostility, perhaps unconscious. I agree with the Kloss critic on that Emily as a child did not have power "to find her own way" out of the difficult situation. Emily had no one to trust or depend on. Deficiency of the mother's love and attention is what scared the child, making her the source of concern to psychologist and anguish to the mother. Through such hard life experience, Emily came to conclusion that the world itself is simply not to be trusted-ever: nothing, no one is reliable or can be counted on and be there for her through time. Throughout the story, we can follow that Emily experiences at least one dozen traumatic separations from significant people and objects before she is even seven years old. I also agree with the Kloss's critic regarding Emily's developed separation anxiety disorder. Such disorder expresses itself as unrealistic fears that the mother will be harmed or that she will leave and not return, persistent refusal to go to school in order to remain home with the mother, persistent refusal to go to sleep without the mother. Emily indeed expressed such symptoms in order for her to be with the mother. Bauer, Helen Pike. "A Child of Anxious, Not Proud, Love': Mother and Daughter in Tillie Olsen's 'I Stand Here Ironing." Mother Puzzles: Daughter and Mothers in Contemporary American Literature. Ed. Mickey Pearlman. Greenwood Press, 1989....
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