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I Stand Here Ironing

By zionsmomma2010 Nov 13, 2011 569 Words
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 place in Emily’s life that could have played a role in why Emily is the way she is now. These events had to do with Emily’s father walking out on them, Emily having to go to daycare in her early years, and also self esteem issues from not looking like the other girls in school. The central idea in this story seems to be the mother’s search of an understanding of her daughter’s personality and outlook on life. The majority of the story is the mother trying to depict reasons for why her daughter is the way she is, so delicate, reserved, needless, and even unhappy at times. She seems to also defend her parenting choices by making excuses or blaming the urges of others in order to not have all the blame on her. She speaks about how she had no other option but to put her in the care of someone else at the age of two, even though she knew the teacher was “evil” (Pg. 925). “It was the only place there was…the only way I could hold a job” (pg. 925). The main conflict in the story is internal, the mother vs. herself. I would also say there is a slight conflict of Emily vs. herself and an external conflict of the mother vs. Emily. The mother defiantly had and internal conflict within herself with her decisions and how things could have been done differently while raising her daughter. The conflict surfaces real early in the story, when the mother goes to say, “Or will I be engulfed with all that I did or did not do, with what should have been and what cannot be helped.” (pg.924) During the story the mother expresses regrets and seems to be, in a way, tormented by her parenting decisions because she can easily recall every moment in Emily’s childhood. Clearly the mother had a deep love and concern for her daughter. In the end, the mother’s conflict within herself is resolved. She states, “ Let her be. There is still enough to live by…Only help her to know-that she is more than this dress on the ironing board, helpless before the iron” (Pg929). The mother has decided that what has been done cannot be changed, and does not want to spend any more time dwelling on it. Just let her be, she will be fine. The conflict of the mother vs. herself and the central idea of the mother trying to explain why her daughter is the way she is are both related in that they are both based on how the mother has raised her daughter. I enjoyed this story; I think the mother shouldn’t be so hard on herself because parenting is not a skill that can be mastered to perfection.

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