Time And Guilt Essay Research Paper Time

Time And Guilt Essay, Research Paper

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.


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