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I stand here ironing - Essay Example

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This process begins when she receives a note from the school counselor saying: "She's a youngster who needs help and whom I'm deeply interested in helping." Emily was a bright child as the mother recalls: "She was a beautiful baby. She blew shining bubbles of sound. She loved motion, loved light, loved color, and music and textures. She would lie on the floor in her blue overalls patting the surface so hard in ecstasy her hands and feet would blur. She was a miracle to me, but when she was eight months old I had to leave her daytimes with the woman downstairs to whom she was no miracle at all, for I worked or looked for work and for Emily's father who "could no longer endure" (he wrote in his good-bye note) "sharing want with us." (p. 9)
From this it becomes clear that the mother recognizes that she was unable to give Emily the attention she needed. When she says that Emily was a miracle to her but not to the woman downstairs, she reflects her guilt for having left her daughter in the care of someone who didn't or could not love her as much as she deserved. Emily has now turned into a woman who keeps much to herself. She doesn't like sharing her life with her mother because she has somehow come to accept that this is the kind of relationship she has with her mother. The mother on the other hand would want deeper connection with her daughter but understands that since Emily had always been treated with anxious and not generous love, her growth was instilled with insecurity. She loves her daughter, wants to be a part of her life but knows it is no longer possible. Looking at Emily now as she enters the house, the mother observes: "She is coming. She runs up the stairs two at a time with her light graceful step, and I know she is happy tonight. Whatever it was that occasioned your call did not happen today" (p. 19)

Through stream of consciousness, we gather several important things about their relationship and what caused a deep strain on it. For one, we learn that mother is guilty for not providing her first child with generous attention but she also understands why she was unable to do so. Emily's father had left when she was only one, her mother had to learn to adjust herself into a new household with a new husband and as other children came, Emily went deeper into the back. And the mother also blames her lack of knowledge for the child's strained growth. At one point she says: "I did not know then what I know now" (p. 11) and "What in me demanded that goodness in her" (p. 12) - meaning she is using her present knowledge to assess and understand her past behavior and that of her daughter's as well.
Mother is the central character in the story and Emily is what she constructs for us. It is through her consciousness that we construct Emily or have an image of her. She is a nineteen year old who is not close to her mother at all. The mother was approached by school counselor as they felt that Emily was disturbed and needed help but while the mother would love to help, she is basically clueless. Clueless not because she doesn't know what is causing her present behavior but because she has no idea as to how it can be effectively influenced. "You think because I am her mother I have a key, or that in some way you could use me as a key She has lived for nineteen years. There is all that life that has happened outside of me, beyond me" (p. 9). Outside of me and beyond me are key terms ...Show more

Summary

I stand here ironing" is Tillie Olsen's masterpiece on strained mother-daughter relationship that was the result of a mother's inability to provide her daughter with enough love and tender care. The mother in this case wanted the best for her child and this is important in the story…
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