The Iron Trap

Recently I read the short story, “I stand here ironing” by Tillie Olsen.  It describes a young woman’s experience of being a mother, focusing primarily on her firstborn child.  It was the depression, a harsh time to be a single mother.  The mother tries everything to make her firstborn daughter’s life better, even giving her away to another family for a little while, but in the end the mother remains helpless to change things.  The mother is stuck in her role of motherhood to her other children and she is also poor.  Not having much money significantly hinders her options of helping her firstborn daughter to excel in life.

I found this story incredibly sad even though I cannot relate to being a mother.  What is relatable?  The feeling of being trapped in a certain role.  The consuming feeling of the things you could have done and how they might have changed the outcome of something.  Perhaps the saddest thing is the setting of the story.  The whole story the woman is standing ironing and I’m sure if the story continued she would still be ironing.  She is helplessly stuck in one place despite of everything she has tried to do.

 

I found this video of a picture/music interpretation of the short story “I stand here ironing”.  It shows pictures from the depression which is the time the story is set in and when the author Tillie Olsen lived.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ob18ygwxTek

 

A Hero and a Villain

Just like winter isn’t complete without a snowfall, a great book isn’t complete without impressive characters.  Here is a favourite hero and villain of mine.

ImageTally

from the Uglies series

by Scot Westerfeld

 

The Uglies series is most certainly one of my favourite series.  This is mostly because of the exceptional heroine, Tally.  The story is based in the future where a new society has been created.  At the age of sixteen, everyone is given cosmetic surgery to make them beautiful.  Though, not everyone is happy with this version of reality and there is a group of rebels, composed of people who have run away before receiving their operation, living outside the city.  The first book, follows Tally on her adventure into the wild, after Tally’s friend runs away the night before both of their operations.  Tally journeys to the band of rebels intent on turning them in, but while she is there, she makes some discoveries concerning the actual cosmetic operation and herself.  The series asks big questions about what beauty really is and how people can allow themselves to be created by society.  Tally goes through many changes throughout the books.  I think what I truly like about her is that her true self always fights its way to the surface no matter how her society tries to change her.  She never gives up or goes down without a fight.  Her name, Tally Youngblood, even suggests that she will be the one to bring down the system.

 

Arkan

from The Books of Pellinor

by Alison Croggon

 

“What is light without dark?”  This is the question Arkan asks the protagonist in the Pellinor series.  I think this is a valid point, for what is a protagonist without a sharply contrasting antagonist?  Although Arkan is not the antagonist throughout the whole series, he appears in the second book and locks Maerad away in his ice castle.  He is a very intriguing character.  While Maerad is held captive, Arkan has the most interesting discussions with her.  They discuss love, evil, and liars.  The conversations are thought provoking and they make Arkan one of the most engaging characters in the series.  I think why Arkan tops other antagonists in different stories, is that even though he is evil, as a reader you quite like him.

A Childhood Memory

My feet can’t touch the ground from the piano bench and they sway in the air above the thick red carpet.  My parents talk constantly of replacing the red carpet that was here when they moved into the house; they hate the colour.  I tilt my head and ponder about the carpet, not really understanding the dilemma.  All I know is the burning red carpet makes the lava game, where I jump from one piece of furniture to another trying not to touch the ground, because it is lava, of course, very realistic.  What would happen to the lava game if the boiling hot lava carpet was gone?

My dad’s body beside me is warm and he sits without a piano book in front of him, pounding out a tune.  I watch his fingers dancing swiftly over the the black and white keys.

He turns to me smiling mischievously and says, “Ready for the finale?”

In the silence between piano songs, I hear the noise from my mom’s sewing machine.  The air smells like cinnamon from some cookies she just baked and, strangely, burnt toast.  My oldest brother sits at the table crunching loudly on something that looks like a charred piece of wood one would find in a fire pit.  Well, that explains the burnt toast smell.

My dad shows me how to play two chords on the piano.

“You’ll play these chords and I’ll play these ones,” he demonstrates, “and then together it will be a song.  Ready? Let’s go!”

The chords I’m playing weave in and out of the melody and I’m concentrating hard on keeping my beat.  My dad grabs the harmonica off the top of the piano.  He’s now playing the piano and the harmonica.  I start laughing and lose the beat of my chords entirely.

That’s when I hear the family dog come clumping up the stairs to the piano.  Her tail is wagging and she starts howling along to the harmonica.  She stops for a moment and looks at me, with the most serious look in her eyes.  Then, she throws her head back, like a full blooded wolf on a full moon, howling her heart away.  I hear my mom joining in, from her sewing machine, howling.  I can’t resist.  I throw my head back too and begin howling.  My other brother is shouting from his room about the racket.  My oldest brother begins to laugh from the breakfast table.  His laugh is deep and and his whole body shakes from it.

It’s windy and snowing outside but this house is always filled with piano jingles, laughter, and love.