Growing Up in I Stand Here Ironing Essay

1291 Words6 Pages
Growing up

The oppression of women by society has never been a secret. Many times it has been documented in works of literature, and one classical example of this occurrence is "I Stand Here Ironing" by Tillie Olsen. This story illustrates the consequences of oppression in women's lives.

The story leads the reader on an exploratory journey to witness the neglect by Emily's extremely guilty mother. This is described by the children's cry when they are left with strangers, lacking attention and love due to the fact she is a single parent at a time where this was not commonly accepted in the community, causing a lot of emotional distress.

The mother's pain and torment is apparent from the very beginning of the story. Her
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There is irony in this story in that it begins with a nineteen-year old Emily, the same age of the mother at Emily's birth, "I was nineteen. It was the pre-relief, pre-WPA world of depression" (Olsen, 368). The societal changes and different expectations for women are illustrated through the description of Emily as a single college student and assertive, while her mom was a product of the 1930's, uneducated, forced to work very young to make ends meet.

While Emily has the advantage of a contemporary upbringing, she is still vulnerable and fearful as an adult, as she was a lonely, sick and unpopular child. "When she finally came I hardly knew her, walking quick and nervous like her father, looking like her father, thin, and dressed in a shoddy red that yellowed her skin and glared at the pockmarks" (Olsen, 368).

In many ways, the mother has control over Emily's destiny, which seems to relinquish weakly. For example, she didn't have to bear other children, knowing she was struggling with Emily, emotionally, physically, and financially. It seems as though she didn't even give her new marriage time to develop before there were new babies and responsibilities kept on upon her. She seems to approach life ignorantly, simply succumbing to her circumstances in a passive
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