I Stand Here Ironing

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A good example of Modernism is a short story called "I Stand Here Ironing" by Tillie Olsen. This story not only portrays gender roles but also family roles. Here the narrator is a mother giving the reader a glimpse into her life, choices she made as a mother, and being a single parent. Through her defense of her situation, she exposes to the reader the underlying insecurities that riddle her mind about her mothering.

The tale opens with the narrator explaining the pain she feels when she is reminded of her past and the choices she made. The main character reflects on how the situation may or may not have affected her child Emily. As she suggests, although it is years later, she still does not have time for her children. The mother feels all her children after Emily have had it better. With that said, I shall try to explore the question. What is the difference from then and now?

As a young mother, the narrator expresses how she wanted to be the best mother, the right mother for her child Emily. She admits that she was a first time mother " …with all the rigidity of first motherhood…" She reads books to educate her self and she believes the "experts" and what makes the best kind of mother. Tillie Olsen writes about how the character, through physical sacrifice, nursed her child. The story raises our awareness of gender and family roles by the comments of the narrator. We become aware of the constraints we place upon ourselves to fit in with what the majority believes each role in a family should be.

The character confesses that she had to parent alone, a nineteen-year-old single parent, and sarcastically quotes a note her husband left for her "…he could no longer endure." Tillie Olsen leaves us, the reader with the sense that the character in the story now feels more of a failure. Because of the thinking of her time, she should be married. It is unfortunate that her husband failed his family, expecting that 'she could endure' where he...
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