Themes of Home and Family in I Stand Here Ironing, Those Winter Sundays and Fences
Select three texts from this chapter that you found particularly memorable, and in a well-organized essay, analyze how the writers have explored the theme of home and family. A home is a place that bears infinite colorful dreams of a child, a place that delivers hope and warmth to the lost ones, and a place that everyone wishes to rest on. However, each family has their own definition of home. In the texts “I stand here ironing, ” “Fences, ” and “Those Winter Sundays, ’ each writer explores a distinct story of a particular family, revealing the different themes of home and family with the help of controlled diction, symbolism, contrast.
To start with, in the play Fences, the author employs the physical fence to represent the changing relationships between the three main family members, Troy, Rose, and Cory, drawing forth the theme of maternal love, betrayal, and the turbulent relationship between father and child. Just like Bono says, “Some people build fences to keep people out… and other people build fences to keep people in. (Act 2: Scene 1)” In Troy’s family, Rose is the one who tries to keep her family members in.
A mother like Rose, the family is everything to her, and she wants her loved ones to live in a comfortable and loving home. She may already notice that her family is falling apart, so to her, building a fence in the backyard is a way to reestablish their family bond and strengthen the relationship between the family members. However, Troy regards building the fence as unnecessary and eventually keeps himself out of the fence. Just as he lacks commitment when Rose continually asks him to build the fence, Troy lacks commitment on his family and ends up having an illicit affair with Alberta.
In Troy’s perspective, home is founded based on responsibility rather than affection, so his affair with Alberta will not conflict with his definition of home. However, it is his betrayal that eventually tears the family apart. Besides, Troy also builds a “fence” between himself and Cory, pushing his son away by hiding his true feelings about his son inside and preventing his son from living a life he wants.
Furthermore, using vivid word choices and symbolism, Tillie Olsen, the author of the novel “I Stand Here Ironing, ” reveals that rather than the glamorous, ideal motherhood many expect from the American family life, for poor mothers living in the 1950s, excessive domestic responsibilities would actually prevent them from achieving self-realization and from nurturing their children carefully.
Throughout the story, Olsen chooses various intimidating dictions, which contradict to the normal perception of motherhood. In the opening sentence of the story, the narrator utilizes the word “tormented” to describe her action of ironing, immediately establishing a sense of constriction coming from the heavy domestic responsibilities she has.
The narrator also describes her child Emily as “a child of depression, of war, of fear, ” Words like “depression, war, and fear” express the mother’s awareness of her daughter’s problem, yet she cannot do anything to help based on her current situation. The author also employs the symbol of ironing to represent the various chores that keep the mother from better understanding and educating Emily on her way to adulthood.
The mother is so often held up by all kinds of chores or duties that she does not have the time and energy to participate more in building an emotional connection with her daughter. Finally, in the poem “
Those Winter Sundays, ” the author Robert Hayden uses contrast and repetition to underscore another theme of home and family——a child’s regret that he did not realize his father’s unspoken love early on. Hayden describes a sharp contrast between warmth and cold, which indicates the author’s attitude towards his father. Initially, the room was so cold that the author could even “hear the cold splintering and breaking, ” just as the author was cold and indifferent towards his father at first.
After the author’s father light all the fireplaces, the room warms up, paralleling to Hayden’s understanding of his father. When he grows up, he warms up to his father as he realizes that his father has been caring for him by doing simple actions that he does not notice and appreciated before. At the end of the poem, the repetition of the sentence ‘what did I know’ further emphasizes the author’s regret of his ignorance towards his father concern and love.
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