Time And Guilt Time and Guilt 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 a single parent was hard, and that the war did not contribute any good either to raising her daughter. Olsen excels at getting across her point of view and that is that maybe she could have helped Emily if she had had more time and more knowledge.
Olsen builds us a good setting to the point that we can see Emily waving from the patio of the hospital, or we can see her playing with her sister; she makes good use of imagery. And furthermore, Olsen sets a tone throughout the story which, combined with word choice and imagery, allows us to feel the emotion of her story. Olsen is ironing throughout the story, showing us how boring their life is moving back and forth in the same direction. Guilt, although the word is indirectly used, is sensed every time she speaks of Emily and even more so in the tone of the essay. In conclusion, I Stand Here Ironing is about the need for time and the feeling of guilt a mother has for her daughter.
Maybe with a little more love and knowledge their lives would not be so static. In other words, less like the iron. English Essays.