I Stand Here Ironing: The 1950s Woman Essay examples

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What do Betty from "Pleasantville," June from "Leave it to Beaver," and Donna Reed from "The Donna Reed Show" all have in common? They all represent the image of the perfect housewife in the 1950s. They represent women who gladly cooked, cleaned, dressed in pearls and wore high heals while waiting for their all-knowing husbands to come home. They represent women who can only find fulfillment in male domination and nurturing maternal love. Tillie Olsen, as a single mother with four children (204), provides readers with another view of women. Through the representation of the narrator in I Stand Here Ironing, Olsen contradicts the image of the 50s ideal woman, a happy housewife and a perfect mother.

This story begins with a request for
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She was a single mother during Emily's initial years. Thus, instead of being able to spend time and play with her 8 month old daughter, the narrator had to go out to look for a job as well as Emily's missing father (199). She defied the image of a typical housewife. Instead of staying home to cook, clean, and take care of her children, the narrator had to go out and get a job.

The narrator also made some clear mistakes in the raising of Emily. Due to circumstances that were somewhat beyond her control, the narrator was not able to be particularly maternal with Emily. The narrator had to leave Emily with Emily's father's family until she could raise enough money. However this ended up taking a long time. The narrator states that "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. All the baby loveliness gone" (199). This statement shows that the narrator missed the crucial early years of her daughter's life. She no longer felt that strong, ready connection that a mother feels with a child. She hardly knew her daughter.

The narrator was not a very maternally loving mother to Emily. "The old man living in the back once said in his gentle way: `You should smile at Emily more when you look at her'" (200). Unlike the mom's portrayed in the 1950's, the narrator could not