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Parental Relationships in "i Stand Here Ironing" and "the Rocking-Horse Winner"

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Parental relationships are a key part to many cultures, and some authors choose to capitalize on that, and write about them, and how difficult they can be, especially when parents are either too overbearing, or not in the picture at all. Two authors who wrote about the difficulties of maintaining a parental relationship include Tillie Olsen, who wrote the short story, "I Stand Here Ironing", and D.H. Lawrence, who wrote a short story called, "The Rocking-Horse Winner". While both of these authors have similar themes, they use everything from different points of view and different symbolism, to differing even in their use of setting and imagery. With those different literary techniques and elements used, Olsen and Lawrence emphasize the fact that even stories with similar themes may be as different in tone as two stories that share no common attributes.

In "I Stand Here Ironing", Tillie Olsen delves into a theme that includes parental relationships and the neglect that can be found in one. In the story, Olsen uses various literary techniques, one of which is point of view. The first point of view is identified in the opening sentence where she says, "I stand here ironing, and what you asked me moves tormented back and forth with the iron" (Olsen 876). After that initial dialogue, the mother starts with a stream of consciousness, which also shows first person point of view. In this story, the reader is only able to perceive the chain of events in from the mother's view, which elucidates how only the mother feels about everything that has happened in her child's life. The reader must remember that the mother can be biased, that everything that she says in the story may be exaggerated, or depreciated, for she is not her daughter and cannot fathom how her daughter feels about her upbringing. "I Stand Here Ironing" only illustrates the mother lives with the fact that she has neglected her child, but does not show how the child feels about being neglected. The first point of view lets the reader see how the daughter truly was neglected, because the mother admits it, and wishes she could change her daughter's childhood. Another literary technique used in the story is symbolism. The iron is the symbol of a hard life. As the mother says, she wants Emily to be "...more than this dress on the ironing board, helpless before the iron" (Olsen 881). The mother was ironing during the duration of the story, and the iron symbolized her hard life, and how she has to work very hard to get anything for herself or for her family. The quote signifies how after all that she has put her daughter through, she still loves her, and she does not want what happened to her to happen to her daughter. She understands that she has neglected her daughter, but she wants to mend her relationship with Emily, and to try and make up for all the things she has done to her. A final literary element is also symbolism. Another symbol used in the story is the clock that Emily talks about when she was sick. The mother says how "...the clock talked loud again that night I [the mother] went to the hospital to have Susan" (Olsen 877-878), according to her daughter. The clock in the story represented the time that they could not have back, the time that she missed whilst her daughter was growing up, and the mother was working and away. What follows after the quote about the clock is that it turns out Emily was delirious with a fever at that time, and later, when she calls out for her mom at night, her mother ignores her and tells her to go back to sleep. The clock was a gateway for the author to show how the mother neglects Emily, and does not care enough about her to even get up out of bed and see what

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