Becoming You Through Poverty and Adversity
How would your life be different if you grew up poor? What if your father left you and your mother? Would you be willing to give up your child because you can not afford to take proper care of her? Would you be willing to forgiving to your friend who has turned his back on you? Difficult situations and decisions that the main characters in, Tillie Olsen’s I Stand Here Ironing, and Sherman Alexie’s, This is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona, went through because of family circumstances and poverty. The adversity that arose from poor economic situations compelled the characters to make decisions that they otherwise would not make. However, without this adversity the characters would not have become the persons they did.
In, I Stand Here Ironing, the story begins during the great depression. Everyone was poor, no one worked, and those that did took what they could find. The mother, who is the main character and provides the monologue about her daughter, was young when she was married, young when her daughter was born, and young when her husband walked out on the family. Alone she had to provide for herself and her daughter. As a result her daughter was left to the care of people who she did not like, and who did not care for her very well. Her mother knew she needed her and did not want to be apart from her. She must have also known that separation would lead to emotional scarring. Repeatedly though, she made decisions that kept them apart. She had to work and there was no husband to help.
The mother made difficult decisions about how to keep her daughter. She sacrificed time together to maintain employment. This was at the expense of Emily’s happiness and well being, and eventually led to an emotionless child. As an infant, “I had to leave her daytimes with the woman downstairs to whom she was no miracle at all, for I worked or looked for work and for Emily’s father…” (Olsen 316). The woman...