Stand Here Ironing the Mother and Daughter Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1643 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Children

¶ … Stand Here Ironing

The Mother and Daughter: Necessity and Guilt in I Stand Here Ironing"

The mother in I Stand Here Ironing receives a call from some unknown "them" that asks her to come in to talk about her daughter Emily, now 19 years old. Her frustration is evident as she goes through a long list of circumstances, over which she had no control, when Emily was small. She did what she could, when she could, how she could with what she had, and was always worried.

A what you asked me moves tormented back and forth with the iron. "I wish you would manage the time to come in and talk with me about your daughter. I'm sure you can help me understand her. She's a youngster who needs help and whom I'm deeply interested in helping." "Who needs help." -- 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? (Olsen)

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The mother is disturbed but has no answers, that will help her go back in time and allow Emily's childhood to be one that was not filled with fear, bad secondary care giving and a constant look of worry on her mothers face. She raised her oldest child, without the father, as he could not provide for them and therefore walked away. Necessity made it so the mother had to send Emily to her father's family at least twice, where she became a different child. When she was with her mother she often had bad secondary care givers, cruel nursery teachers and angry old ladies, who were willing to watch her for free. It was all there was, there were no other options. Once she even followed some bad advice and institutionalized her. The institution, was the rave of the day, cold and cruel, and clearly secretive and separated. The goal of the institution, being to teach children to be independent, by separating them from nurturing, the children would stand on a balcony on Sunday and communicate with their parents by yelling down at them.

Term Paper on Stand Here Ironing the Mother and Daughter: Assignment

Not to Be Contaminated by Parental Germs or Physical Affection." There was a tiny girl who always stood hand in hand with Emily. Her parents never came. One visit she was gone. "They moved her to Rose Cottage," Emily shouted in explanation. "They don't like you to love anybody here." (Olsen)

The mother followed all the current advice. She nursed for the correct time, tried to earn a living for her child and herself, and yet was always distant from her child, by choice and by providence. The distance between the two seems to be eternal, as a result.

The old man living in the back once said in his gentle way: "You should smile at Emily more when you look at her." What was in my face when I looked at her? I loved her. There were all the acts of love. It was only with the others I remembered what he said, and it was the face of joy, and not of care or tightness or worry I turned to them -- too late for Emily. (Olsen)

The mother did not go to her in he frightened nights when she was sick or awakened by nightmares. She had so many other things to care for, new babies and a new husband. Now the mother goes to her, as if it would be allowed by her daughter and the answer she gets mirrors her own answer to the child late at night, when she had called out as a child. Her mother would call out, "You're all right, darling, go to sleep, it's just a dream," and if she still called, in a sterner voice, "now go to sleep, Emily, there's nothing to hurt you." (Olsen) and now Emily calls to her mother in the night if she wakes to ask her if she needs anything: "No, I'm all right, go back to sleep, Mother." (Olsen) Even at 19 the strain is still evident. The institution, had forced distance into Emily. She was rejected, in her mind by her parents, who were truly only trying to do the right thing, to a cold and callous institution that sapped the fear and emotion from her. She now had only her humor left. Humor, is the only way that Emily connects to the world, from a distance. Emily is brooding, and yet, when she breezes in tot the house, after he mother has sat standing above the ironing board for hours, thinking about all the ways she may have failed her, she is lively and talkative. The relationship, today may be strained but the mother is aware that whatever fear prompted the call for help from school, presumably, it ad not happened today.

The mother is stymied by guilt, hoping that her daughter can crawl out of the poverty and providence that led her to be a child that was rarely smiled at, often responsible for more than her years could handle, abandoned to grow up as fast as the era required.

Carter xv) Emily, was awkward, and felt out of place, as she had lived far to long undernourished emotionally and physically and endured it all without much complaint. She complained so little in fact, her mother feels guilty about not answering the smallest complaints the child had. Carter, a literary critic, writing about mother daughter relationships says the work;

is a dialogue between circumstances and desire, constraint and love, absence and presence, silence and speech, power and helplessness" (39). From two vantage points -reflection and projection -- the mother reviews her own life's experiences (poverty, abandonment, single motherhood, monotonous labor, sickness) and hopes fervently that her daughter will escape a similar fate. The mother narrating her story expresses the hope that her daughter will develop a supportive "core of self-confidence, a sense of self-worth" that she never had, despite her underprivileged childhood.

The real relationship is not clear, as the whole of the work is a reminiscent internal monologue, excluding the short one sided conversation near the end, when Emily, playfully chides her mother for never being done with her ironing. "Aren't you ever going to finish the ironing, Mother? Whistler painted his mother in a rocker. I'd have to paint mine standing over an ironing board." (Olsen) Her mother says of Emily, "She is a child of her age, of depression, of war, of fear." (Olsen) and asks the world to leave her alone, as she is lovely and need only to find herself. The mother reminds us of, "the limits to the power that any one human being, even a mother, has over a child," despite the fact that our culture reminds us daily to go back to the mother to source out the problems a child has today, even as an adult.

Weissbourd 26-27) the mother reminisces that even had she fully understood the implications of her actions, with Emily as a child, she would have acted the same, she had nowhere else to take her and the advice she was given was flawed, but a reflection of the time.

Emily is independent and afraid, but the mother hopes she will conquer the fear and bloom without the addition of privilege that she could not and cannot offer her. He guilt is evident, but so is her own feeling of helplessness. She had no other answers and no other choices, she had others to worry about. A family to feed and care for, without Emily's father and for some time without the father of the other four children, as he was a soldier and absent. The rift that was formed between the mother and… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Stand Here Ironing the Mother and Daughter" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Stand Here Ironing the Mother and Daughter.  (2007, October 3).  Retrieved August 7, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Stand Here Ironing the Mother and Daughter."  3 October 2007.  Web.  7 August 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Stand Here Ironing the Mother and Daughter."  October 3, 2007.  Accessed August 7, 2020.