I Stand Here Ironing

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The Role of a Single Mother in “I Stand Here Ironing” Burdened with her circumstances, the narrator looks back at the choices she has made as a mother. She reveals the dark side of being a parent and discusses the difficulties that often affect low-income families. She gives the reader a straightforward understanding of motherhood that is typically not a part of the image of the self-denying, perfect mother that the world expects women to embrace. The mother begins to tell the story over the phone about her own responsibility for the problems in Emily’s life. Even though the narrator admits to partial responsibility for her part in Emily’s unhappy childhood, at the same time she excuses herself of full responsibility because of environmental and social circumstances. She looks at her daughter's future, fearful that it will be a desolate, miserable existence resulting from a childhood where there was not sufficient money or time for emotional nourishment. Tillie Olsen’s “I Stand Here Ironing” introduces a mother-daughter relationship where the mother faces internal conflict regarding her daughter Emily as she narrates her neglect for her daughter, the lack of love the child experiences during her life, and ability to discover comedy during tragic situations, and the cruelty of being a dark little girl in a world that appreciates beauty. Several times throughout Emily’s life she experiences separation from those she cares about. The narrator confesses how she was absent from her daughter’s life during most of Emily’s development. Actually, Emily has known nearly nothing but detachment and displacement. After the father abandoned them, the mother was forced to work and had to place Emily with an unaffectionate neighbor for day care when she was eight months old, then to the home of her father’s relatives, then to another caretaker, and finally to a convalescence

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