The setting is very important in any work of fiction. Often, the setting in the work of fiction carries a symbolic meaning that helps underscore the central theme of the work of fiction. In light of this, this paper will consider the symbolic function that the settings in A Worn Path and I Stand Here Ironing by Eudora Welty and Tillie Olsen respectively. The central theme in Eudora’s A Worn Path is the triumph of human love. This is seen through the protagonist who endures everything to make a journey inspired by the love for her grandson. Although she is almost blind and with a frail body, she remains resolute with an unwavering spirit.
The setting in Olsen’s I Stand Here Ironing is effectively used to enhance the central theme in the story. Through the narrator, Olsen explores the burdens of motherhood. The burdens of motherhood challenge societal expectations on the role of a mother. For instance, these burdens are seen in the secondary nature of the bond between the parent and the child, a premise that the setting in the story helps exemplify. The symbolic meaning behinds Emily’s balcony and the convalescent’s home, one of the settings of the story helps illuminate the challenges a mother faces in parenthood. The convalescent’s home symbolizes the inability of the narrator to care for her children, even in the midst of abundant will. The greenery in the convalescent’s home contrasts sharply with the drabbing world in which the narrator lives. Emily’s balcony at the convalescent’s home symbolizes the emotional distance that exists between the mother and her child. The setting symbolizes the inexistent communication between the mother and her daughter.
An author does not just communicate through the words in a written piece. There is more meaning to be found the perspective, the tone, language choices, style and mood of the author. Often, this communicates the sense of struggle for the characters in the story, while at the same time creating empathy for them. This paper will exemplify this using A Worn Path and I Stand Here Ironing by Eudora Welty and Tillie Olsen respectively. Olsen uses consciousness narration from the narrator to show her struggle in making sense of the situation in which she finds herself. The unstructured thoughts that flow freely from her show the struggle to piss parts of her past together in order to understand the influence that her past as mother has had on her daughter Emily. The nonlinear manner in which the thoughts of the narrator flow shows an attempt by the author to create sympathy and empathy for the narrator. The author’s conviction that the character of an individual is influenced by both environmental and familial factors is evidenced through the narrator’s unstructured thoughts. Olsen creates empathy for the narrator through the belief that a single explanation that the narrator is seeking cannot explain the complex nature of human behavior. This is in an effort to relief her of the mounting pressure.
Eudora tells the story in A Worn Path in the third person. The third person point of view is not omniscient. With the exception of the protagonists monologue, this point of view does not give the reader a peek into the protagonists mind. This void in information is filled by the vivid description of events and scenes by the author. Through this narrative style, the reader is able to see the struggles of the protagonist. The third person point of view removes the bias that would otherwise come from the first person point of view, thereby allowing the reader to form objective and individual opinions. The third person point of view allows the reader to see the struggles of the protagonist by themselves. This allows the reader to feel for the protagonist by the fact that the reader understands the situation with which the protagonist is faced. This enables the reader to feel empathetic towards the protagonist. For instance, when Eudora describes the endurance of the protagonist amidst physical impediments such as virtual blindness and a weak body, the reader cannot help but feel empathetic. This might have evoked different emotions under the first person point of view.
Olsen, Tillie. “I stand here ironing” Between mothers and daughters. Eds. Koppelman, Susan. New York , Feminist Press. 1985. 177-187. Print.
Welty, Eudora, and Elizabeth Sarcone. A Worn Path. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1998. Print.