Hardship in life, especially in the younger years, can scar somebody for life. In I Stand Here Ironing, Tillie Olsen talks about Emily and her struggles through her younger years. In the begging of the essay, someone is asking the mother to come and talk about her daughter, Emily. This person is very interested that Emily gets help. The mother replies, Who needs help. Even if I came, what good will it do (Olsen 73)? The mother’s opinion is that nothing can be done to help Emily. To get around not talking to this person, she is writing a letter and reminisces over all the things that have happen over the last nineteen years in Emily’s life. A lot of the events were not happy and show that Emily was depressed most of the time. In spite of her hardships, Emily turned out to be a successful young lady.
The mother remembers that Emily was a beautiful baby, and she was full of life and very loving, until she was babysat by the woman downstairs. At that same time, her father left them both, and plainly said, he could no longer endure (Olsen 74). Even from this young age, Emily started to show some depression because her mother was always working and her father was gone. She did not like the woman downstairs either. The mother said she was a miracle to me (Olsen 74), but it was all gone after the lady downstairs watched her. Not too long after that, the mother sent Emily to her father and his family until she was two years old. Maybe staying with her father’s family when she had chicken pox, might have changed Emily more then we might have thought, because Emily ended up acting like her father. She walked quickly, was nervous, and was thin and she even dressed like him. By this time all of the baby loveliness was gone in Emily.
Emily was two years old, and old enough to go to nursery school. She did not like going there and kept making up stories why she could not go. Her mother said, I knew the teacher that was evil because all these years it has curdled into my memory, the little boy hunched in the corner, her rasp, why aren’t you outside, because Alvin hits you? that’s no reason, go out, scaredy. (Olsen 74) The mother remembers how it was when she was at nursery school. She did not like that, and can sympathize with her daughter.
When the mother would go out with her husband, Emily would get very upset and say: Can’t you go some other time, Mommy, like tomorrow? Will it be just a little while you’ll be gone? Do you promise (Olsen 74)? Emily did not want to be left by herself in the house because she was afraid of being alone. Because of her being scared, she left the door open and the clock was on the floor by the time her mother came back and she was still awake. Emily did not cry, but said it wasn’t just a little while (Olsen 74). She was disappointed that it took that long, and tried not to show it at first. She acted the same way when the mother had her baby.
Because of the new born baby, Emily did not adjust well to the situation. The people at the clinic persuaded the mother to send Emily to a house in the country, so she can have the kind of food and care you can’t manage for her. (Olsen 75) At this time, she is in deep depression for a little child. The place she went to was to make her better, but in reality, the place made her worse. The people at the house in the country did not like the children to keep any personal belongings because they did not have the room for it. When they show any friendship to anyone, they promptly move that person to a different cottage, so they could not continue there friendship. When the parents came to visit, they had to yell to the children that were on a balcony in order to talk to them. They were not to touch their own children because the place had a Not to be contaminated by Parental Germs or Physical Affection policy (Olsen 75). I believe the whole reason for her going to this house in the country, possibly a mental institution, was to help her eat more, but made her frailer because she still was not eating well.
After all that happen in Emily is life she did find something she was good at. When she was in school she did an amateur show. The people really liked her, and she thought she was somebody now. She was being asked to perform at other high school, colleges, and at statewide affairs. The performing makes Emily very happy and helps her have a different outlook on life. She becomes more relaxed and when talking about midterms with her mother she says: in a couple of years when we’ll all be atom-dead they won’t matter a bit.(Olsen 77) This statement is very true in what it say about the things we do and say; when we are dead nothing matters anymore.
Ever since Emily’s mother can remember, Emily’s life was hard for her. Throughout the essay, Tillie Olsen describes some of the things that made Emily depressed, but does not forget to point out that she turned out well. Through Emily mom’s voice, Olsen conveys that at nineteen Emily is doing well and her mother is proud of how her daughter turned out. Hardship only makes us stronger (if it does not kill us first), and the mother points out that it is exactly true in regards to Emily. Why did she choose not to go to school? Because Emily really did not need help, she was sorting out her problems in her own way, and was doing well.
Copyright (c) 2005, Jeffrey Shane Saunders. All Right Reserved.