Literary Analysis of I Stand Here Ironing

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Word count 385 Tillie Olsen’s “I Stand Here Ironing” is a Mother’s story of circumstance and regret. In the story the mother retells of her hardships and sacrifice that her family had to endure as a result of the economic climate during the 1930’s. To overcome this adversity Olsen must sacrifice the relationship and well being of her oldest daughter in order to make ends meet and provide for the rest of her family. The main character in the story is the Mother. The Mother is a static character who remains unchanged throughout the story. Olsen paints an image of herself as that of a strong and caring Mother with a lot of guilt. The conflict for the Mother is the remorse for neglecting her first born child even though the neglect could not be helped. Olsen states, “I will become engulfed with all I did or did not do, with what should have been and cannot be helped” (290). Emily is a minor character in the story and is the Mother’s first born child. Throughout the story the Mother leads the reader to believe that something is not quite right with her daughter. Olsen writes, “Even if I came, what good would it do? You think because I am her mother I have a key, or that in some way you could use me as a key?” (290). Olsen tells of her Daughter’s quiet and backward demeanor, “She was not glib or quick in a world where glibness and quickness were easily confused with ability to learn” (293). Throughout this story there are insinuations that Emily is damaged goods. However, Emily eventually proves everyone is wrong when Emily performs her comedy routine and receives a standing ovation. The main theme of the story is parents must make sacrifices and often those sacrifices come at a price. It is also important to realize that even though the events that she endured as child has shaped her personality she is not incapable of possessing a gift. Olsen’s “I Stand Here

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