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~ AUTHOR ~
Lerner Olsen (January 14, 1912 – January 1, 2007) An American writer associated with the political turmoil of the 1930s and the first generation of American feminists Olsen was born to Russian Jewish immigrants in Wahoo, Nebraska and moved to Omaha while a young child. Over the years Olsen worked as a waitress, domestic worker, and meat trimmer. In the 1930s she joined the American Communist party. She later moved to San Francisco, California, where in 1936 she met and lived with Jack Olsen, who was an organizer and a longshoreman. She married Jack in 1944, on the eve of his departure for service in World War II . "I Stand Here Ironing" is the first and shortest story in the collection, about a woman who is grieving about her daughter's life and about the circumstances that shaped her own mothering.
Eventually she had forced to leave her with her father’s family until she reaches 2 years. Because of Emily’s father had died when she was one she had to work and give her a less care and now she’s sorrow about it. liked pets. After all the mother gave a birth and Emily had a sister named Susan. Emily couldn’t catch her attention at all and the mother thinking all about her past when she is ironing the girl’s dress. Like this. Now the mother knows how her girl is valuable and how she loves her. . Because of carelessness Emily never liked school. The mother who is from middle class left to work and take care of her children. Then the mother left her at nursery school. There were so many reasons that she couldn’t care about her such as she was only nineteen when she was born and her poverty.~ SUMMARY ~ In this story the main character is a mother who is thinking about her eldest girl who named Emily.
they "were poor and could not afford for her the soil of easy growth. it looks back to the 1930s (the time of the Great Depression). The story is set in the working class home of the narrator." .~ SETTING ~ The story moves through a fairly long timeframe it is set in the early 1950s. who comments that when her first child was born. and the 1940s (the time of World War 2).
but has recently developed a talent for comedic acting. She is the oldest of five children. but in retrospect she realizes there are many things she would have done differently if she could. despite her youth. so there is no point in caring about anything. . 2) Emily's mother A mother who is filled with regrets and worries about her daughter. She believes the atomic bomb will soon destroy everything.~ CHARACTER & CHARACTER TRAITS ~ 1) Emily A shy nineteen-year old girl. She is cynical about life. Emily had a very difficult childhood. She worked hard to support her family and take care of them. and the world.
articulate and sure. quick. golden and curly haired. Susan the second child. chubby. . her mother had remarried and gained enough experience to show more affection than when Emily was born. By the time Susan was born. 4) 5) Emily's stepfather called away to fight in WWII.3) Emily's father deserted the family so as not to "share poverty with them" less than one year after Emily's birth.
~ PLOT ~ Point of view: The story is told from a mother's first person point of view. and the story. Her thoughts. Emily. remembers the way she parented her first child. . a now remarried mother of several children. are about what she would have done differently while parenting Emily if she had been more experienced and had better options. It is one of Olsen's most anthologized works. The narrator.
. The narrator's remarriage brings more stability (and more children) into their lives. a mother thinks about her daughter. but Emily continues to be plagued with health problems and has trouble keeping up in school. The narrator sought work while leaving Emily in the hands of not-so-caring babysitters. and the father had left them. This question prompts the narrator to reflect on her daughter's life. and the audience loves it. CLIMAX As a teenager. The narrator thinks back to the circumstances of Emily's birth. The narrator was nineteen at the time. . A counsellor or teacher asks the narrator for some insights into her daughter. Emily reveals a talent for comedy. Emily puts on a comedy act for her high school talent show. CONFLICT The mother struggles to make ends meet when her daughter is born. it seems as if Emily is getting all the attention she had never received as a child. but Emily still has trouble fitting in. On a whim. COMPLICATION The narrator remarries.INITIAL SITUATION While ironing. All of a sudden.
the narrator's reflections are interrupted by Emily herself.SUSPENSE • Emily interrupts the narrator while she is thinking. CONCLUSION • The narrator asks the imaginary person she's having a conversation with to help Emily. • At this point. as well as her reflections about her daughter. while the narrator continues to iron. The fact that there seems to be no progress in the narrator's thoughts and actions suggests that she hasn't come to any conclusions about her daughter's life. She isn't sure if Emily will ever fulfill her promise. She ends her imaginary conversation with Emily's teacher by asking the teacher to help Emily realize her potential. • The narrator continues her ironing. DENOUEMENT • Emily goes to bed. Emily's flippant attitude toward her education contrasts with the promise she displays as a performer. who has returned home. . or if she will let her talent go to waste. • This ending is pretty inconclusive: the narrator still hasn't resolved her conflicting feelings about Emily.
Although the mother-daughter relationship in Olsen's story doesn't fit the mainstream stereotype. their love for each other is palpable as they share their struggles. . who comes of age in a society that values a Shirley Temple model of girlhood and adolescent femininity. working mother at a time when a more traditional.~ THEMES ~ 1) WOMEN AND FEMININITY "I Stand Here Ironing" looks at the themes of women and femininity through the lens of a mother-daughter relationship. the narrator works long hours and is unable to care for her daughter. The narrator is a single. stay-at-home mom was the norm in mainstream American society. it reveals a strong bond. The story also gives us a sense of the challenges faced by her daughter. middle-class. Struggling to make ends meet during the Great Depression. Olsen's story takes us inside the mind of the narrator as she juggles the role of mother and breadwinner.
Is the American Dream. the children attend crowded schools with uninspiring teachers. Roosevelt's administration.2) POVERTY Tillie Olsen's "I Stand Here Ironing" is an intimate look at life from the perspective of the working class during the Great Depression. . Families such as the narrator's fall apart under the strain of immense poverty. when it was difficult for someone with no education to find work – let alone a woman. Moving frequently as their parents seek work. the dream of prosperity and material security. It begins in a time before the great work projects and social relief efforts of Franklin D. Charitable institutions such as clinics and hospitals are woefully inadequate. out of reach for the working class? The story suggests that perhaps the American Dream needs to be re-imagined to open more opportunities to people regardless of gender or class.
The story attempts to make visible the real lives of the working class. is only an excuse not to give the working class real opportunities (such as a livable wage) to improve their own lives. Charity. the government. from their own perspective. whether they be the wealthy. it seems. The skepticism is also informed by a post-World War II perspective that has witnessed the destructive power of the atomic bomb: political power is associated with death. or institutions such as public hospitals and schools. Those in power are blind to the needs of the working class.3) POWER Olsen's story reveals a deeply skeptical attitude toward those who hold positions of power. .
As the story’s title suggests. Although Emily’s welfare is the central concern of the story. rather than succumb to the circumstances of her birth. the narrator is more actively engaged in unwrinkling her daughter’s dress than in the life of the young woman who will wear it. This is ironic because it is these duties that drew her away from Emily and lessened the quality of her care.” This comment suggests that the narrator hopes Emily will be able to transcend the narrator’s mistakes. . The narrator’s final wish is that Emily will have a strong sense of self-worth and believe that she is more than the dress that is “helpless before the iron.~ LITERARY DEVICES ~ SYMBOLS The Iron The iron represents the chores and responsibilities that prevented the narrator from engaging with Emily’s life more profoundly. the narrator is constantly embroiled in the duties she must perform to effectively care for her family. The repetitive motion of the iron moving back and forth across the surface of the ironing board mimics the narrator’s thought processes as she moves back and forth over her life as a mother. attempting to identify the source of Emily’s current difficulties. The distance the narrator feels from Emily is embodied in this simple act of ironing.
Theory of Literary Criticism • Sosial Criticism (Marxism) A sociological approach to literature that viewed works of literature or art as the products of historical forces that can be analyzed by looking at the material condition in which they were formed. .
• Status of economic: World of the depression. To understand social events. when she saw me she would break into a clogged weeping that could not be comforted. I would start running as soon as I got off the streetcar. the place smelling sour and awake or sleep to startle awake. It was the pre-relief. running up the stairs. a weeping I can hear yet. pre WPA world of depression.Material Circumstance • The economic condition underlying the society. “ I was nineteen. . one must have a grasp of the material circumstances and the historical situation in which they occur.
there was not time for her” . His abandonment created the economic situation in Emily’s life which led her mother to send her away to so many different care takers. “ I had to leave her daytimes with the woman downstairs to whom she was no miracle at all. “ I was terrible. growing years. I was working.• Result of the economic status force the mother to leave her daughter and struggle to find the work since her husband left her. there were four smaller ones now. I do not remember them well. who “could no longer endure” (he wrote in his goodbye note)” sharing want with us. War years. for I worked or looked for work and for Emily’s father.
“ It took a long time to raise the money for her fare back.• Working class women like Emily’s mother walk an exceptionally thin line when attempting to conform to societal norms of good motherhood while earning enough money to support her children. Then she got chicken pox and I had to wait longer” .
harsh and labored. and her breathing. and I think much of life too” “Mostly Emily had asthma. “I used to try to hold and love her after she come back.• The writer emphasize the poor health care and lack of attention that felt by Emily make the mother regret it so much. would fill the house with a curiously tranquil sound” . but her body would stay stiff. Food sickened her. and after a while she’s push away. She ate little.
I wasn’t working. too. She is not working and had a new baby. . after Susan grew old enough. Sometimes. To her overworked and exasperated teachers she was an over-conscientious “slow learner” who kept trying to catch up and was absent entirely to often” “ I let her be absent. to have them all together.• The writer also emphasize on poor education that had been provided by the mother due to the economic status that time . She was not glib or quick in a world where glibness and quickness were easily confused with ability to learn. I would keep her home from school. “School was a worry to her. We had a new baby. I was home anyhow. How different from my now stricness about attendance with the others. though sometimes the illness was imaginary.
or decorating Easter Eggs or filling Christmas stockings for the children.• Rich become richer and poor become poorer. I see pictures on the society page of sleek young women planning affairs to raise money for it. . or dancing at the affairs.
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