I Stand Here Ironing By Olsen

In Tillie Olsen's narrative "I Stand Here Ironing," I interpreted that
there was a reflection of the loss of time and the sense of guilt between a
mother and daughter. This is displayed in the authors word choice, point of
view, imagery and tone. Olsen begins her narrative while ironing and talking on
the phone. Her daughter needs help, she is told. So she begins to ask herself a
million questions. She wonders why her daughter needs help, how she can help
her, and what she could have done to prevent her from straying so far in the
first place. As these questions run through her mind the iron in her hand moves
swiftly back and forth in rhythm, throughout the entire narrative. Ironing being
an act of boredom. With each movement she has a new thought regarding her
daughter; she questions how she could have raised her to be a better person. In
this essay one senses Emily's resentment toward her mother. This is because of
the way in which she had been treated, for it is clearly obvious that Emily was
unknowingly denied the love and attention a normal child would receive. What is
odd though is that throughout the narrative one can feel the love Olsen has for
her daughter. Nevertheless, this love that Olsen claims to have for her
daughter, is not expressed enough to Emily, which, therefore, leads Emily to
acquire many feelings of resentment, neglect and perhaps even betrayal toward
her mother. A good example occurs when Olsen is confronted about her love for
her daughter, and she says, "What was in my face when I looked at
her?" This clearly shows how unaware she is of her daughter's feelings.

This is suggested continuously throughout the story when Olsen recounts how she
had to send her daughter away while she worked. Although, the act was
unintentional, too much time away from one's loved one, for too long can have a
drastic effect on a person; most especially a child. That is why Emily seems so
bitter; "She was a child seldom smiled at," (6). Who could blame her
for not smiling? She had been sent away from her family during so many key
points in her life. First, she had been sent way when she was a baby in order
for her mom to get back on her feet. Next, she was sent away to a convalescent
hospital where she was again separated from her family. How was she supposed to
live a normal life when all that she loved and depended on kept leaving her
life? Emily was constantly denied stability, and that is a major factor in
allowing her to lead a normal life. Olsen says her husband "could no longer
endure sharing want" with them (2). When broken down, "want"
suggests that he did not care to share a life of poverty with them. Could this
be true also for Olsen toward Emily, but in a different text? To Olsen, what if
it means that she can no longer continue to hold expectations for her daughter?

Does that not constitute for want also? Maybe that is what the whole story is
about. On the outside it looks like a story about a conflict between mother and
daughter, but there are many interpretations to be pondered. What if the story
is really about a mother that drops all expectations for her daughter in order
for her to lead a normal life before it is too late? Or, better yet, maybe it is

Emily that can no longer endure want? Whatever the case is, one thing is for
sure and that is that Emily has been denied something that could have made her
whole. Olsen uses such verbs as remember, sift, weigh, estimate, total, all of
which mean that she must consider carefully. In the beginning these words are
used to show how Olsen begins to examine her daughter's life. In the conclusion,
she employs the words dredging; which means to dig up or search, compounds;
which means to combine or add, and total again, which in this case means to sum
up. This suggests that in the end she has concluded her observation of her
daughter, and that is that she will never come to a conclusion of her daughter.

She will never "total" it all. Tillie Olsen writes a great story about
raising her daughter, Emily. She makes good use of word choice in describing
their life story, informing us of how being