Clocks and the associated concept of time represent another aspect of the social rules that binds both the narrator and Emily. The narrator frequently makes parenting choices based on societal ideas of when certain milestones should occur, even when she herself does not believe in these choices. That oppression by time becomes more extreme in Emily’s childhood, when Emily is frightened of clocks and the changes that she associates with the passage of time. In both cases, the external force of time as represented by the clock restrains the characters in painful ways. In this way, the clock and its effects act as a microcosm of the broader, equally damaging pressures that social norms exert in this story.
Clocks Quotes in I Stand Here Ironing
I nursed her. They feel that’s important nowadays. I nursed all the children, but with her, with all the fierce rigidity of first motherhood, I did like the books then said. Though her cries battered me to trembling and my breasts ached with swollenness, I waited till the clock decreed.
“It wasn’t just a little while. I didn’t cry. Three times I called you, just three times, and then I ran downstairs to open the door so you could come faster. The clock talked loud. I threw it away, it scared me what it talked.”