First Person Reliablity Essay

983 words - 4 pages - gasbagsaskatchewan ✓ Expert Reviewed

When discussing the reliability of a narrator within fiction, you must look at the way the story is laid out. In order to detect fallacy in a narrator's statements, you have to watch for elaborations. While within “I Stand Here Ironing” by Tillie Olsen we are given a narrator that is the mother of a few children who describes her feelings and life with her eldest daughter, Emily. As unbiased as her words may seem at first, she still is telling the story from her point of view. To identify an unreliable narrative, we need to look at three key aspects within the story. You must find if the narrator has any detectable biases, if the author contradicts themselves, and finally you must ensure that the reader is able to identify an unreliable narrator and interpret the story in as raw a way as possible. Regardless of how sincere the narrator may sound in “I Stand Here Ironing”, she is still an unreliable source of information.

As a reader, it is important to understand what exactly it is you are reading. When looking at the narrator within “I Stand Here Ironing”, it is easy to picture a young woman to whom life has thrown a curve-ball. After Emily's father leaves them, Emily's mother must pick up some jobs to support her and her daughter. While we do not know, it seems likely that the narrator is hiding why she and Emily's father split up. Although she quotes him as “no longer [able to] endure sharing want with us.” we as readers are not given any additional information. Her inability to provide significant details makes it hard to decide if our narrator is indeed being totally honest with us. She claims that she left Emily with a woman in the same apartment building to “whom she was no miracle at all.”, implying that this woman had absolutely no regard for Emily in any way. This is also an ambiguous area because the audience can not tell what exactly is happening in regards to the woman downstairs and her care of Emily. Is she basing her statement off of the way Emily reacts when she comes home from work to fetch her as her basis of accusation? At nineteen, Emily's mother is still young and sees her world as harsh and cold and as though everyone around her is unfriendly and unfit for caring for her child. While she is the best person for the job of raising her child, she is being single-minded in the way she views other people and their interactions with her daughter.

Even as a mother who is constantly worried about her daughter's safety and well being, the narrator has contradicted herself. She states that she did notice something was wrong when Emily was growing up, but she fails to implement any form of change in regards to the way she raises her daughter. She does...