Showing 1 - 2 of 2 annotations associated with Olsen, Tillie
- Willms, Janice
Summary:An older woman is diagnosed as having cancer. The story is of the progression of her symptoms and the effects of her illness and eventual death on her husband and grown children. The years of silent compliance with the expectations of children and spouse begin to erode as the woman becomes sicker. The relationship between the aging couple, and the place of the ill mother in the priorities of her children clarify. The tale ends with the death, and a tiny glimpse of resolution of decades of strife and unexpressed rage between man and wife.
- Coulehan, Jack
The narrator stands working at her ironing board, responding mentally to a request someone (a teacher? a social worker?) makes of her regarding her daughter Emily, "I wish you could manage the time to come in and talk with me . . . She's a youngster who needs help." The woman's thoughts go back to Emily's birth during the Depression when she was only 19, and her thoughts range forward, haltingly, in piecemeal fashion, through her daughter's difficult childhood.
Due to the wages of loss, poverty and dislocation, a wall has grown up between mother and daughter--she has always wanted to love the sickly, awkward, stiff, and isolated girl, but has not been able to penetrate the wall. And then, she recalls, out of nowhere Emily won first prize in her school amateur show. The girl is a natural performer, a wonderful comedienne, who now is in demand throughout the city and state.
Suddenly, Emily appears on the scene. "Aren't you ever going to finish the ironing, mother?" She says that she wants to sleep in the morning, even though this will make her late for mid-term exams. Near the end of the story the narrator imagines telling her interlocutor, "Why were you so concerned? She will find her way." But then she implores, "Only help her to know--help make it so there is cause for her to know--that she is more than this dress on the ironing board, helpless before the iron."