How many literary elements are present in "I Stand Here Ironing"?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You might want to focus particularly on the way in which Olsen uses imagery to express the thoughts of the typical mother who is run ragged and absolutely exhausted. In particular, a stylistic feature of this narrative is the way in which simple images are used to suggest and indicate profoundly complex emotions. One of the best examples of this in action is the simple act of ironing that is refered to in the novel's title. Let us remember that ironing involves going back and forth over clothes to iron out wrinkles. In the narrative, this becomes a powerful symbol for the various desires and imperfections of the narrator. For the narrator, the task of ironing summarises her position and the many menial tasks that a woman must face, but also comes to symbolise her own unmet desires and her felt needs to do something more with her life.

When she contemplates her daughter and the kind of future she hopes she will have, this is in complete contrast to her own life and the image of ironing is again used to reflect the menial tasks that occupies the life of the narrator. She above all hopes that her daughter can learn "that she is more than the dress on the ironing board, helpless before the iron." Ironing is therefore a profound image in this text that allows the author to express both the menial nature of being a mother but also the many frustrations that characterise such a role.


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I Stand Here Ironing

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