Tillie Olsen themes

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  • During this time period, women tended not to work. Tillie Olsen was a feminist writer so it would only make sense for her to push for a women's right to work. Not only does she work, she does this on top of raising children in order to show a women's capabilities. A women can even put her work before her child.
  • Theme: Women Can Work
  • Throughout the entirety of the short story, we are warned of Emily's constant faults. Between Emily's inability to learn as fast as the regular student, her foreign appearance, and her refusal to even eat or go to school at times she appears as a surefire failure. Regardless of her disadvantages, Emily ends up on top by the end.
  • Theme: Youth is deceiving
  • "She was a miracle to me, but when she was eight months old I had to leave her daytimes with the woman downstairs to whom she was no miracle at all, for I worked or looked for work" This shows that a women, months after the birth of a child, and immediately post-nursing, has the ability to go to work. Even if it means leaving her child with someone who does not think highly of her.
  • "I was working. There were four smaller ones now, there was not time for her." Emily essentially fell out of the picture, because she was working so hard. In addition to that, she was raising another four kids. This further proves a woman's willingness to work.
  • Evidence: Women can work
  • " She was too vulnerable for that terrible world of youthful competition of preening and parading, of constant measuring of yourself against every other" Emily was shown from a young age to fall short to most children she was surrounded by. The reader is no fool for believing her life will not be one of success.
  • "She is more than this dress on the ironing board, helpless before the iron." Emily turns out to be more than what she appears. Emily does not become the product of a sad, ugly, and poor childhood. Post-talent show she becomes beautiful and hard working. Emily's childhood appeared to foreshadow a fate with the stench of failure. Somehow, she turned out to be a beauty and a success.
  • Evidence: Youth is deceiving
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