I Stand Here Ironing

by

Tillie Olsen

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Susan Character Analysis

Susan is Emily’s younger sister and the second child of the narrator. Susan is a few years younger than Emily and is described as beautiful, confident, and clever. The narrator suggests that Susan had an easy childhood compared to Emily’s and does not struggle socially or academically. As a child, Susan was often in conflict with Emily, who resented her beauty and quick wit. The narrator also notes that Susan was drawn to Emily’s prized possessions and often broke or lost them accidentally.

Susan Quotes in I Stand Here Ironing

The I Stand Here Ironing quotes below are all either spoken by Susan or refer to Susan. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Poverty, Labor, and Domestic Life Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the University of Nebraska edition of I Stand Here Ironing published in 2013.
I Stand Here Ironing Quotes

Oh there are conflicts between the others too, each one human, needing, demanding, hurting, taking—but only between Emily and Susan, no, Emily toward Susan that corroding resentment. It seems so obvious on the surface, yet it is not obvious. Susan, the second child, Susan, golden- and curly-haired and chubby, quick and articulate and assured, everything in manner and appearance that Emily was not.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Emily, Susan
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:
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I Stand Here Ironing PDF

Susan Character Timeline in I Stand Here Ironing

The timeline below shows where the character Susan appears in I Stand Here Ironing. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
I Stand Here Ironing
Time Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Self-Expression Theme Icon
Responsibility and Guilt Theme Icon
The clock “talked loud again” the night the narrator gave birth to Emily’s sister Susan. Emily became sick with measles then and prone to nightmares but, with a new baby,... (full context)
Female Identity Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Self-Expression Theme Icon
Responsibility and Guilt Theme Icon
...have them all together.” These were the only “times of peaceful companionship” between Emily and Susan, since Emily developed a “corroding resentment” of her pretty and outgoing sister. Emily’s physical development... (full context)
Poverty, Labor, and Domestic Life Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
Obedience vs. Self-Expression Theme Icon
Responsibility and Guilt Theme Icon
...anxious and the family was poor, the narrator was a “young” and “distracted” mother, and Susan “seemed all that [Emily] was not. The narrator laments that her own “wisdom came too... (full context)