Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The first-person narrative technique permits the development of a very personal interior monologue and the examination of an entire lifetime of events. These reveal the development of the child Emily and her relationship to her mother in a way that exposes the mother’s anguish and sadness. The language of the mother in describing the daughter is always loving and tender. She speaks of her as a miracle, beautiful and happy. The simple, direct sentences are appropriate to the interior monologue and reinforce the sincerity and seriousness of the thoughts expressed.

The calm, reflective tone serves to emphasize the resignation of the mother to her ineffectiveness in influencing the course of her daughter’s future. It also provides a fitting contrast to the intensity of the final lines of the story, in which the mother admonishes the note writer to let the girl be but still urges this unnamed figure of authority to convince the girl that life is not futile.

I Stand Here Ironing Historical Context

The Great Depression
The narrator of "I Stand Here Ironing" describes her daughter as "a child of her age, of depression, of...

(The entire section is 466 words.)

I Stand Here Ironing Setting

The story is set in the late 1950s or early 1960s in the working-class home of the narrator as she stands before the ironing board reflecting...

(The entire section is 33 words.)

I Stand Here Ironing Literary Style

Olsen's "I Stand Here Ironing'' tells the story of a mother's relationship with her eldest daughter in a stark and dramatic fashion that has...

(The entire section is 584 words.)

I Stand Here Ironing Literary Qualities

"I Stand Here Ironing" tells the story of a mother's relationship with her eldest daughter in a stark and dramatic fashion that has impressed...

(The entire section is 577 words.)

I Stand Here Ironing Compare and Contrast

1963: Betty Friedan publishes The Feminine Mystique, the first notable publication of the modern women's movement, in which...

(The entire section is 140 words.)

I Stand Here Ironing Topics for Discussion

1. Which aspects of this story would be different if it were set today and which would be unchanged?

2. How accurate or reliable...

(The entire section is 214 words.)

I Stand Here Ironing Ideas for Reports and Papers

1. Olsen has a long history of political activism, and she was once jailed for trying to organize blue-collar workers to join a union....

(The entire section is 206 words.)

I Stand Here Ironing Topics for Further Study

Olsen has a long history of political activism, and she was once jailed for trying to organize blue-collar workers to join a union. Explain...

(The entire section is 127 words.)

I Stand Here Ironing Related Titles / Adaptations

"Tell Me a Riddle" (1961) is Tillie Olsen's award-winning story about the sacrifices a Jewish immigrant couple has had to make in order for...

(The entire section is 27 words.)

I Stand Here Ironing What Do I Read Next?

"Tell Me a Riddle" (1961) is Tillie Olsen's award-winning story about the sacrifices a Jewish immigrant couple has had to make in order for...

(The entire section is 171 words.)

I Stand Here Ironing For Further Reference

Bauer, Helen Pike. '"A Child of Anxious, Not Proud, Love': Mother and Daughter in Tillie Olsen's 'I Stand Here Ironing.'" In Mother...

(The entire section is 331 words.)

I Stand Here Ironing Bibliography and Further Reading

Sources
Atwood, Margaret, "Obstacle Course," in The New York Times Book Review, July 30, 1978.

Elman, Richard...

(The entire section is 168 words.)

I Stand Here Ironing Bibliography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Boucher, Sandy. “Tillie Olsen: The Weight of Things Unsaid.” Ms. 3 (September, 1974): 26-30.

Cuneen, Sally. “Tillie Olsen: Storyteller of Working America.” The Christian Century 21 (May, 1980): 570-574.

McElheny, Annette Bennington. “Alternative Responses to Life in Tillie Olsen’s Work.” Frontiers 2 (Spring, 1977): 76-91.

Martin, Abigail. Tillie Olsen. Boise, Idaho: Boise State University Press, 1984.

Orr, Elaine Neil. Tillie Olsen and a Feminist Spiritual Vision. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1987.

Schwartz, Helen J. “Tillie Olsen.” In American Women Writers. Vol. 3, edited by Lina Mainiero and Langdon Lynne Faust. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1981.

Shulman, Alix Kates. “Overcoming Silences: Teaching Writing to Women.” Harvard Educational Review 49 (November, 1979): 527-533.