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  • In Tillie Olsen's "I Stand Here Ironing" we often forget she is a feminist writer trying to make a statement. A rather large one she makes is that women are fully capable of working.
  • Theme: Mothers can work.
  • Throughout the short story Emily goes through her own form of metamorphosis. She attains a beauty of her own through their life experiences instead of through her looks. Tillie makes this statement in order to show that women are more than looks and should be treated as such.
  • Theme: Beauty is attained
  • Although Both Emily and her Mother come a long way from where they are in the beginning of the novel, Emily's mother admits there could have been more to Emily and both she and the environment she was born into limit her from becoming the best she could have been.
  • Theme: Environment limits capability
  • "She was a miracle to me, but when she was eight months old I had to leave her daytimes with the woman downstairs" Once again, a Mother puts aside her beloved child in order to get done what she deemed necessary.
  • "I was working, there were four smaller ones now, there was not time for her." This shows a Mother putting aside her duties as a woman in that time in order to work and get done what needed to get done.
  • "Mother, I did it. I won I won; they gave me first prize; they clapped and clapped and wouldn't let me go." This quote serves a purpose much larger than apparent. After struggling just to learn, be looked at, and given attention to, Emily wins a talent show and is held by her fellow classmates and adored. This shows a beauty that is never talked about by her own mother. The people loved her. When the reader realizes everything that she had been through it becomes more apparent that this win is about a young girl overcoming struggles she had faced her entire life. She has survived and become better because of them.
  • "She fretted about her appearance, thin and dark and foreign-looking" This explains Emily's initial appearance as a child. This is used merely as a tool to contrast the before and after of her transformation.
  • My wisdom came too late... So all that is in her will not bloom." The mother admits that she was too late in discovering more about life in general to assist her own daughter in becoming the young woman she could have become. She admits this a few times, but this is one of the direct instances. Regardless of her achievement, her Mother is aware that she can not become what all she had the potential to.
  • "She was not glib or quick in a world where glibness and quickness were easily confused with ability to learn." In this excerpt Emily's Mother explains that from a young age Emily didn't have the capabilities of many of her own peers. This is used to show that Emily was lacking in something she should not have been.
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