Top-Rated Free Essay

I Stand Here Ironing

Good Essays
A Theme is Controlled Though the Setting and the Atmosphere In the short story “I Stand Here Ironing” by Tillie Olsen there is an atmosphere which has an overwhelming feeling of torment and a sense of regret. Taking place during the 1930s and 1940s a single mother has to cope with the Great Depression, WWII, and the feminist movement of the 1950s while raising her first born daughter Emily. A conflict is created by the lack of understanding the single teenage mother has for raising her first child. The theme that arises from this story is that to what extent can a mother be held responsible for her child’s problems, and that society must take some responsibility.
“She is a child of her age, of depression, of war, of fear.” This quotation appears at the end of the second-to-last paragraph, which is preceded by the narrator’s exhortation regarding Emily to “Let her be.” The narrator says this because she does not take full responsibility for the outcome of Emily’s life. The Great Depression had left its mark, creating massive poverty and unemployment. Being unemployed and without any financial relief the narrator is left to face the world alone This meant Emily was to face her own world alone for most of her childhood while her mother struggled to keep a job. The war created fear in America, even with a victory of WWII the proceeding Cold War only made it worse. The narrator feels somewhat cheated that the world Emily was raised in was a cruel and harsh one.
Though the narrator blames society and the world for the way Emily is she also blames herself. She takes responsibility for some of the things that had gone wrong in Emily’s life, but tells herself that she had no choice but to work late hours and lose her time with Emily. Through all this Emily grew up to be gloomy with a lack of popularity, and low self-esteem. The narrator though chooses to describe Emily as a sensitive, thoughtful, and selfless individual who has survived through a terrible ordeal. Emily is blind to anything positive about herself; instead she chooses to hide in the shadow of her younger sister Susan. Who in Emily’s eyes is everything she is not, this creates a sad and depressing atmosphere for Emily.
The narrator sees a spark of hope though in her youngest child Ronnie, she feels that see can write her wrongs in him and fix what she has broken in herself. With Emily grown up she doesn’t see any opportunity to fix what is wrong, though she also releases that she must let Emily be. Even though Emily has had a grim life there is still hope from all that has happened, Emily has gifts, which she can use to bring the better out in herself. In the ending paragraph the author feels resentment and cold for everything that has happened to Emily, but she also sees a glimmer of hope in her future.
The atmosphere and setting have contributed a lot to the theme of the story. They have created a deeper sense in the raising of a child on your own. This story doesn’t hide the pain a mother gave her child or the pain the child caused the mother, it lets people see things in a different light, a light in which is dim and gloomy.

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Good Essays

    I Stand Here Ironing

    • 415 Words
    • 1 Page

    The Meaning Behind The Iron When reading the short story ? I Stand Here Ironing? written by Tillie Olsen I analyzed the story by using both feminist criticism and the formalist strategy. The author uses a iron as a metaphor for how the woman in the story tells the life of her daughter and why her daughter is the way that she is. In a way the woman lays everything out on the table and irons it out straight. Many single mothers can relate to this story because it tells about the hardships that some…

    • 415 Words
    • 1 Page
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    I Stand Here Ironing

    • 569 Words
    • 2 Pages

    Jessica Hyde, Eng 1302-007, 9/4/11 For my paper, I chose to write about the short story, “I Stand Here Ironing,” by Tillie Olsen. In the story, a mother of a nineteen-year-old girl named Emily is ironing some clothes, as she is pondering a recent message she received from one of Emily’s counselors or teachers; a message of concerns with wanting to help her daughter. The mother begins to think back to the very beginning of Emily’s life. She starts stating all the various events that took…

    • 569 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    I Stand Here Ironing

    • 1739 Words
    • 7 Pages

    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'",…

    • 1739 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    I Stand Here Ironing

    • 989 Words
    • 4 Pages

    “I Stand Here Ironing” written by Tillie Olsen, is a short story that focuses closely on a mother’s struggle to raise her daughter during the Great Depression while balancing motherly duties and sees pasts her mistakes. The family is forced to learn how to come to terms with the hardships and tries to move past them. As the narrator reminisces about her nineteen years old daughter’s childhood throughout the story, she wonders if she had not been so self absorbed, could have her daughter’s life been…

    • 989 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    I Stand Here Ironing

    • 453 Words
    • 2 Pages

    The point of view and narrative structure of I Stand Here Ironing, by Tillie Olson, completely affects the theme of the story in many ways. The theme of the story is the powerful bond between mother and daughter. The point of view would have been less personal if it had been changed. The narrative structure consists of flashbacks, which are very valuable to the story and the way it is meant to be read and understood. Since the mother is talking about her daughter's history, it makes the story more…

    • 453 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    I Stand Here Ironing

    • 788 Words
    • 2 Pages

    “I Stand Here Ironing” Tillie Olsen's I Stand Here Ironing addresses the issue of a mother's guilt over how her child turns out and develops into a grown woman. Although she blames herself for the daughter's problems, is it really her fault? While this short story is obviously about the mousy daughter, the mother often mentions how she feels guilty for the way her daughter Emily is, for the things she (the mother) did and did not do. The ideal mother-daughter relationship is not like the one…

    • 788 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    I Stand Here Ironing

    • 478 Words
    • 2 Pages

    May 5, 2012 Outline “I Stand Here Ironing” A. Plot: The story begins with a woman ironing her daughters dress. It causes her to recount the life she as provided for her daughter Emily. As she considers her actions she wishes that she had done some things differently. Unfortunately, the depression era had left her with very few choices if any at all. So to survive and provide for her children the mother, abandoned by her husband, had unintentionally, not protected nor not made the best…

    • 478 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    I Stand Here Ironing

    • 668 Words
    • 3 Pages

    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…

    • 668 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    I Stand Here Ironing Theme

    • 1296 Words
    • 6 Pages

    commonly used in many pieces of literature to convey a deeper meaning. Although there can be multiple themes, they all serve the same purpose and allow the reader to determine an overall meaning for themselves. Three common themes developed in “I Stand Here Ironing,” by Tillie Olsen, are the lifelong search for one’s identity, womanhood and femininity and how it can affect a person, and the inevitable hardships of motherhood. The theme of identity can serve as a way to tell a reader about the certain…

    • 1296 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    I Stand Here Ironing Notes

    • 1741 Words
    • 7 Pages

    Reading Log Summary: "I stand here ironing" is about a mother reflecting on the past she shared with her daughter Emily. Their life consisted of many unfortunate events beginning with Emily's father abandoning them at a very young age. The mother couldn't afford to spend much time with her to provide enough love and affection as she struggled to make ends meet. This lead Emily to have a rough childhood plagued with illness, insecurity and unhappiness. Although she had a difficult childhood, Emily…

    • 1741 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Powerful Essays