Emily became a comedienne; many clowns paint a tear on their cheeks over their makeup.What might this suggest  in "I Stand Here Ironing"about Emily in particular and people in general who come...

Emily became a comedienne; many clowns paint a tear on their cheeks over their makeup.

What might this suggest  in "I Stand Here Ironing"about Emily in particular and people in general who come across as clowns to their classmates?

Expert Answers
dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

People often laugh to cover their pain; laughter and tears are closely connected. The fact that many clowns paint a tear on their cheeks over their makeup hints that the clown, who acts silly and brings laughter, is really sad inside; his smile is only a mask.

Using laughter to hide pain is different from using it to deal with pain. The first situation might only add to the problem, while the second potentially might alleviate it. The quote suggests that Emily, who has suffered deeply because of a lack of love and attention given to her as a child because of circumstances, deals with her hurt by being funny. Raised by a mother who loved her but was ill-equipped to give her the stability that she needed, Emily was "thin" and "nervous" as a child, prone to asthma and other illnesses, and "school (was) a worry for her;" life was a constant struggle. Emily's discovery of her notable talent for being a comedienne corresponds to her own blossoming as an individual, and the fact that her talent is so promounced communicates the idea that in growing up, she has learned to deal well and effectively with her own pain, and, having this outlet for it, will go on, as her mother says, to "find her way."

People in general who come across as clowns to their classmates are often really very unhappy people. Their "clowning around" is a form of acting out, or of dealing with what is bothering them. Keeping this in mind, it would be kind to take a second look at people like this, keeping in mind that there is most likely much more to them than their flippant attitudes indicate.

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I Stand Here Ironing

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