"I Stand Here Ironing" Themes


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Storyboard Description

In "I Stand here ironing" by Tillie Olsen, the daughter of the narrator, Emily, is a dynamic character, meaning she changes throughout the passage. Emily develops from a beautiful young infant to that of an anxious and rather negative towards herself. By the end of the passage, Emily is 19 and beautiful and talented. Some of the themes that are shown throughout the development of Emily's character are that separation creates desperation, isolation sparks rigidness and that beauty demands growth.

Storyboard Text

  • Separation creates desperation
  • I would start running as soon as I got off the streetcar, running up the stairs, the place smelling sour, and awake or asleep to startle awake, when she saw me she would break into a clogged weeping that could not be comforted, a weeping I can hear yet.
  • I used to try to hold and love her after she came back, but her body would stay stiff, and after a while she'd push away.
  • Isolation sparks rigidness
  • She fretted about her appearance, thin and dark and foreign-looking at a time when every little girl was supposed to look or thought she should look a chubby blonde replica of Shirley Temple.
  • Beauty demands growth
  • Separation creates desperation
  • "It wasn't just a little while. I didn't cry. Three times I called you, just three times, and then I ran downstairs to open the door so you could come fast. The clock talked loud I threw it away, it scared me what it talked."
  • Isolation sparks rigidness
  • She tormented herself enough about not looking like the others, there was enough of the unsureness, that having to be conscious of words before you speak, the constant caring---what are they thinking of me? without having it all magnified by the merciless physical drives.
  • Beauty demands growth
  • When she finally came, hardly knew her, walking quick and nervous like her father, looking like her father, thin, and dressed in a shoddy red that yellowed her skin and glared at the pockmarks. All the baby loveliness gone.
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