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Parent-child Relationships in the Stories I Stand Here Ironing and Everything That Rises Must Converge

8 pages
1953 words
George Washington University
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Introduction to Authors

Flannery O'Connor is one of the most celebrated female American writers and essayists for their contributions in literature. Growing as a partial orphan after the death of her father, O'Connor believed that all the human nature vigorously because it changes them and such a change is painful. Undeniably, these keywords provide OConnor with a crucial interpretive understanding of her short story, Everything that Rises Must Converge. She appears to have developed a sense of direction towards the writing career at an earlier age. She further pursued her interest in writing after graduating in 1947, where she spent several months at Yaddo, a Saratoga Springs for a retreat. "Everything that Rises Must Converge" was further influenced by her experiences in growing up as a Catholic in the South. Tillie Olsens life also depicts some struggle before taking the writing direction. She was born of the Jewish Immigrants parents, who also participated in the 1905 Russian Revolution. According to Olsen, the close relationship with her mother greatly inspired her to write. The Olsens became the victims of harassments typical of the McCarthy Period. The desire to write I Stand here ironing was evoked by the events she had experienced and decided to dedicate more time to her writing. The theme of parent-child relationship has been profoundly depicted in both I Stand Here Ironing and Everything That Rises Must Converge. Fundamentally, these relationship is observed to shape the character of both the parent and the child. Besides, it also influences the parents do not guide the manner in which the plot of these literary works unfolds in the circumstances the child. Noteworthy, this relationship exposes readers of all the ages to several of parents and parent-child relationships because analyzing this relationship assists readers to learn and understand the motives and personalities of not only the characters portrayed in the novel but of real-life relationships. While both I Stand Here Ironing and Everything That Rises Must Converge embodies the relationship between a child and their parent, Tillie Olsen's short story portrays a mothers perspective of parental guilt and failure while Flannery O'Connor's story describes a childs tormenting culpability to their mother.


Professionals believe a secure, loving attachment during childhood typically leads to a good ability to detach as an adult; guilt is often a silent culprit between child-parent relationships (Baumeister, Arlene and Todd et al. 243). Children typically blame themselves for what goes wrong in the relationship between them and their caregiver and misinterpret the feeling of responsibility as culpability. While parents feel parenthood is a large factor in their identities, and their child's outcome is a direct reflection of their efforts and abilities. Julian in Flannery O'Connor's short story was frustrated by the feelings he had with his mother, more so a feeling of debt to the gratitude he should feel. He did not care for the woman she was and felt compelled to break free from her judgemental thoughts. Julian's mother switched roles (Black and Elena 260). She longed for her childhood and the way her life used to be, whereas Julian wanted her to conform and felt responsible for the way she acted, although he was glad to not be like her. Tillie Olsen's short story was similar when focusing on relationships. However, she felt she never did enough for her child, and that is why she was the way she was. Much like Julian, she thought she had to come up with reasons for Emilys disposition. She was not upset with Emily as Julian was with his mother, she felt responsible because of the way her life was and wished she could make her life better, not change how she turned out.

The mother-daughter relationship that is portrayed in the I Stand Here Ironing is not ideal. A closer look at this relationship shows that the failure of this relationship to demonstrate the idealness is not the fault of either the mother or daughter (Frye 287). Through her thoughts, the mother offers a more excellent illustration of the circumstances of the relationship that evolved with her daughter. In fact, this relationship is characterized by past hurts and regrets, in addition to the lack of warmth and the elements coldness (Alper 31). It is clear that the mother feels guilt concerning the decisions that she made during her eldest daughters upbringing, observing the challenges she encountered now that the direct consequences of her failure were linked to her deeds. In particular, real senses of the missed opportunities are shown in the story (Black and Elena 260). Noteworthy is where the speaker at one time remembers when her daughter would call her at tight upon being upset by the dream. Surprisingly, she would only get up twice to sit with her at night when she was disturbed by dreams.

Emilys mother further demonstrates the feeling of remorsefulness the moment she says that it is late, based on the fact that she felt responsible for all the mistakes made and was therefore unable to go back and heal the damage caused on their relationship (Alper 31). As she stands there and irons, she reflects her daughters life as well as the problems she made to her. Primarily, she regrets about accepting to be advised by other people about doing other things to her daughter. These included putting her into a nursery school in addition to putting her into the convalescent home when she was sick (Gale 44). She never denied taking such actions even though she explicitly knew that the environment that surrounded these places were more injurious to the daughter instead of doing her good. At this point, the relationship is depicted as more strained and awkward, but guilt dominates the whole story.

While the mother in I stand here ironing demonstrate a feeling of being remorseful and guilty for her deeds towards the daughter, Julians mother demonstrate concern and care for son. The mother is unsympathetic to Blacks and the civil rights movement and keeps on reminding Julian majority of the times about his great-grandfather who was a governor, and who also owned a plantation as well as the slave laborers. However, Julian does not want to hear about this issues and wants the topic changed. At the beginning of the story, it emerges that Julian feels that he should have an open mind of the slavery and the society they are currently living in. In this way, he feels that the mother should not force him to stick to the olden days beliefs about slavery. He asserts, They should rise, yes, but on their side of the fence (OConnor 3). The environment they are living in dramatically shapes their perspective and thoughts.

Even in the situation where Julia feels that his mother is still stuck on various beliefs about the blacks people and slaves, he tries to promote justice for all to her, though not always in a genuine way. However, his disdain for the mother subjects him to demonstrate his prejudice. Fundamentally, he even goes ahead to make friends with Negroes but with the better types (OConnor 506). He believes that it is only worth to share and socialize with the blacks of a certain kind not all. However, he is acting against mothers opinion as he finds her outdated compared to himself, who use the college graduate wisdom. Throughout the story, it can be observed that Julians mother demonstrates unrealistic thoughts whenever she comes across them, perhaps in a bus. In page 6, she asserts that Now you see why I wont ride on these buses by myself. Readers can, therefore, understand why Julian is frequently being subjected to a state of frustration by his mother. However, this is not a genuine frustration, but it is just a feeling of concern and love which is manifested through provoking the mother to have the better feelings (Black and Elena 260). In fact, Julian wants his mother to emulate various lessons regarding the genuine place in the world as well as the new respect for the black people. However much his actions were intellectually satisfying, it was a brutal mechanism that ended up killing her.

Julians superiority complex and hatred towards everything regarding his mother lead to losing her throughout his lifetime (Darwin 1). While Julian grew up in the 1960s and attended the college, his view and thoughts are embedded in his childhood surrounding, which is characterized by the racist mindset. Julians mother believes in a distinct but equal ideal despite his many attempts to show disobedience to her. In fact, readers can relate the generalizations that Julian demonstrates to his real characters and the personalities that define the kind of person indeed is. The mother shows tolerance for the sake of her son even if it is not the best way to go. It is even seen whereby she does not separate herself or reject any direction that enhances any encounter with the black people (Darwin 1). In the story, the mother decides to deal with the societal ongoings but do not associate herself with them and observes the occurrences from a distance. A closer look at this approach shows that it is somehow superior compared to Julians strategy to deal with the issues within his surroundings. Julian tells his mother that you havent the foggiest idea where you stand now or who you are, (OConnor). However, he shows clearly that he cannot understand who he is. Undeniably, he demonstrates regular appearances, therefore, relates to those of his racists and old mother. Unquestionably, therefore, Julian shows similar behavioral traits just like his mother. The mothers past highly promotes his, despite the fact that he is trying to keep them hidden from him. Fascinatingly, perhaps he would have encouraged the mother to slowly develop less narrow-mindedness if he would have known that they possess similar traits.

Contrary to this, we observe that the surroundings in Olsens short story is depicted as unfavorable and therefore subjects Emily to problems she faced in life. In the Olsen's short story, Emily is given birth to in a considerably unfortunate surroundings, which seems to have shaped her character, view, and behaviors in her later years (Frye 287). The move of her mother to leave where with another woman who was to take care of her appears to torment Emily throughout her life as she did not favor this woman. In fact, these events made the mother to demonstrate remorsefulness about her actions as well as deeds towards the daughter. The mother blames herself for the daughters unhappiness, and the unintentionally makes the justification of her efforts with the great love that she has towards her. The mother is dominated by the recognition of her inability to be with her daughter at an earlier age especially when the children need their mothers love and care. According to the mother, this was the period of the pre-relief, pre-WPA depressions world (Frye 287). However, her being away was based on the fact that she was trying to work for her and could also get enough time during the day to be with Emily as she worked during the night time. All these changes when the mother gives birth to the new baby where Emily is entirely isolated from the two, despite being an essential stage for the child development. The separation is caused by measles, an occurrence in life that no one can prevent.


In conclusion, this paper has offered the discussion the comparison parent-child relationships, and parental-child guilt in the stories I Stand Here Ironing and Everything That Rises Must Converge. Both stories provide the embodiment of the relationship that exists between parents and their children. More specifically, Tillie Olsen's short story portrays a mothers perspective of parental guilt and failure while Flannery O'Connor's story depicts a childs tormenting culpabil...

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