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In "I Stand Here Ironing," why is the point of view important in understanding the...

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hyoseonh | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Honors

Posted August 5, 2010 at 2:46 PM via web

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In "I Stand Here Ironing," why is the point of view important in understanding the story?

Also I don't understand the tone of the speaker.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 5, 2010 at 6:44 PM (Answer #1)

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Tillie Olsen's "I Stand Here Ironing" is told as an interior monologue held by the mother who has been contacted by school officials about her daugther.  The monologue of the narrator/mother consists of a stream-of-consciousness response to the officials.  This structure provides a dramatic context as well as establishing the narrator's confrontational tone in contrast to her quiet, repressed personality.

In her essay, "I Stand Here Ironing:  Motherhood as Experience and Metaphor." Joanne S. Frye writes:

The narrative structure....generates a unique capacity for metaphorical insight into the knowledge that each individual--like the mother and the daughter--can act only from the context of immediate personal limitations, but must nonetheless act through an sense of individual sensibilty.

The narrator does, indeed, act through a sense of individuality.  She reponds to the questions asked of her, and begins to search for validity as well as demonstrating her character as interruptions to her monolgue occur, interruptions that are caused by the pressures of graduating for the fllowing school.  In the end, paradox of character is illustrated through the dramatic "frame"  of the story that she does not care to express to others.

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