I Stand Here Against the Government: The Allegorical Message of “I Stand Here Ironing by Olsen

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“I Stand Here Ironing” is almost a mirror story of author Tillie Olsen. Like the narrator she wrote, Olsen also was abandoned by her husband after their first child and later remarried and had more children. Being a mother caused her to put aside her career (writing), which happens to be the opposite of the narrator, who put aside being a mother to be a woman who took care of “womanly” duties around the home. Olsen also uses this story to attack the government by writing how the narrator struggled to fend for herself and her child when they received no governmental help. She also used the narrator’s daughter, Emily, to show what happens when the government does not help their people. This is why I believe that in “I Stand Here Ironing,” …show more content…

When she finally saved up enough money to bring Emily back, her daughter got sick with the chicken pox and had to stay away longer. When she finally went back to her mother, she hardly recognized Emily anymore. The time spent away from each other left a hole in their bond, which wouldn’t have resulted if the government was more helpful. Bad luck followed Emily throughout her childhood and gave her red measles and, eventually, tuberculosis which caused the narrator to send her daughter to a convalescent home because the government would not help her afford the care Emily needed. The home only allowed visitation twice a month and screened the letters going out, so the narrator’s interaction with her child was limited and overall hurtful for Emily’s growth. The home did little to help Emily, besides allow her to gain a few pounds, it instead made her fear physical interactions and strengthen her habitat of not eating. The narrator tried to help Emily, but it was a difficult task with the other children and work to do around the house. When the government finally tried to help, it was too late for Emily. We can assume that the story we are reading is the conversation the narrator is having with a social worker, who is trying to help Emily. Their conversation presumably ends when their narrator asks the social worker to let Emily be. She summarizes what has happened to Emily and believes that there is nothing that the government can do to help her now. The

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