Written by Véronique Cyr


A Comparison between "I Stand Here Ironig" and Aurore (movie by Luc Dionne)

The freedom of speech is a right we have and which is very important in our society. But it has not always been like that. Many years ago, the important was to live your life as it was, without asking questions or questioning yourself about what was going on in your existence. People who were not rich and popular accepted their fate and did not try to persevere in order to get more. However, it would have be better for them if they had act rather than stay there doing nothing. The idea of staying at a place, doing nothing and waiting for things to move is a concept that is portrayed in many plays, movies, novels and stories. That is the case in the short story “I Stand Here Ironing” written by Tillie Olsen and in the movie “Aurore” produced by Luc Dionne, which is a true story. In these stories, the two girls, Aurore and Emilie, could have had their lives changed if people next to them, Aurore’s father and Emilie’s mother, had reacted. Furthermore, the symbol of an iron is very meaningful in both stories. It represents the silence, the unwillingness and the desire for things to stay the same. The following text will compare the similarities between the short story “I Stand Here Ironing” and the movie “Aurore”.

    First of all, in order to fully understand the characters of both the movie “Aurore” and the short story “I Stand Here Ironing”, we should first understand the society in which they are living. The term meritocracy means that what people reach in their lives is due to their personal merit rather than on their class, race gender or families’ connection. It suggests that the more a human being do well in society, the more he/she will rise to the top of the hierarchy. “I Stand Here Ironing” relates the story of a working-class mother whose position has affected relations with her daughter, Emily. The author, Tillie Olsen, demonstrates well how the mother’s life choices were determined by where she was ranked in the class system. At this time, women did not have many existential choices. They could not touch children nor show love. In this story, the mother stands in her house, ironing clothes instead of making things moving for her daughter to have a better life. The action of ironing is very important in this story because when you are ironing, you are not moving or doing something that will help you to go forward. Here, ironing is the action of thinking about what the mother can do to improve her daughter’s life, but not doing it because she is too busy to make the dress she is ironing well done. At the beginning of the story, Emily’s teacher sends a letter to her mother telling her that they should meet in order to help Emily and to maybe improve her future quality of life. Emlily’s mother thinks about what her life as well as Emily’s look like while ironing a dress: “I stand here ironing, and what you asked me moves tormented back and forth with the iron” (Fiction 100, 1103).

   It is similar to people in the village of Aurore think. They stand in their houses, tormented by what they saw or heard, thinking about what they could do to change it, or about what they will never do. We all know, because this story is past and true, that Aurore had a tragic ending because people did not react, did not talk, and did not stand up to make her suffering stop. At the end of the story “I Stand Here Ironing”, the problem is not resolved because the mother is still ironing and thinking about her daughter’s future life. Readers don’t know if she will stand up and act for things to move. One thing is sure, if she decides not to talk to the teacher, it will also cause the end of her daughter. The mother had the extraordinary chance to act, to work hard for her daughter, for her to have her quality of life changed and then, have a higher place in the class system hierarchy.

     In the movie “Aurore”, the working-class is also showed. First of all, it is by the father, Telesphore, and also by his wife performing the typical work of women which was cleaning the house, taking care of the children and feed the man of the house. In this true story, the system hierarchy is very well represented. At the top, you had the Church, then you had people who had respectable careers, like people who had stores, and at the bottom, there was the working-class. The father of the poor Aurore was working hard in order to feed the family, so hard indeed, that he did not see that his own daughter was dying. He saw at few times that Aurore was in a very bad mood and that her body was covered in injuries, but he stands there, doing nothing except working. This is also the case of the village in which they are living. They all knew that this poor little girl was beaten by her step-mother but did not say anything and it leads to a continuation of injustice. In the movie, we saw at few occasions, Telesphore working in his garage with an iron in his big pliers. The iron is very red because he is planning to change its form. Again, instead of doing something for his daughter, he prefers to stand in his garage, ironing. The step-mother also burns Aurore with an iron during a whole day. It shows that she is burning the little girl to let go her frustrations. Rather than trying to solve the misunderstands she has with Aurore, she wants to burn them. Since ironing is a symbol of the entrapment of the role of women at home, it is a huge symbol to use an iron to burn Aurore, it shows her desire to follow the typical work of women and to make things correct even if it’s not. The step-mother wanted things to stay the same. She did not want a girl who would not respect her orders and this is what pushed her to make Aurore silent. In this story, it is quite different because there are many people who could react and do something to save Aurore’s life. First, there is the Aurore’s father who could react and see that his girl needs help. He prefers to keep his new wife at his side, to clean the house and feed him rather than to change the martyrdom of Aurore. Secondly, there were people in the village who could react and talk about it. At this time, the Church, which had a better place in the class system hierarchy, had answers to all questions and that is also why people did not talk. “On va encore se fermer les yeux? Ça ne nous regarde pas! Ya un curé icitte, c’est à lui de voir à ses affaires là” (Aurore, 2005). Again, the ranking class in society lead the protagonist of the movie to an end.

   To conclude, there are many similarities between the short story and the movie. The silence, the unwillingness and the desire for things to stay the same is something that both stories have in common and the authors used the symbol of an iron to interpret to these themes. When there are possibilities to react and talk in order to improve something, people should always do it. It is very important to help each other and speak freely for the injustice to stop.

Works Cited