How would you characterize the events of the story, Tillie Olsen's "I Stand Here Ironing."    As far as I was able to comprehend, the story is told from the unnamed mother's first person point of...

How would you characterize the events of the story, Tillie Olsen's "I Stand Here Ironing."

 

 

As far as I was able to comprehend, the story is told from the unnamed mother's first person point of view. She is asked about her daughter by an outside force. (possibly a guidance counselor or a teacher) While she irons, she works through her response by recalling the childhood of her daughter and what she would have done differently if she had been more experienced. I would say the plot is characterized in a chronological order since her flashbacks of her daughter's childhood are in real event order. I wouldn't say the story is really built upon any suspense really, especially after Emily develops her comedic talent.

 

Please tell me what you think as far as my thoughts and anything else you think is  essential regarding the characterization of the plot in the story.

 

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tillie Olsen's "I Stand Here Ironing" is a monologue, yes.  The mother's efforts to work through her response, as you say, is characterized much like her ironing--back and forth.  There does, then, seem to be some ambiguity to the establishment of any defiitive relationship between the mother and the daughter since there is a pattern of abandonment and poverty.  The mother often keeps her daughter, but must give her up for lack of means of supporting the child.  Then, when the Emily does come back to the mother, there is an estrangement that exists in the relationship.  And, because the mother has remarried and has other children, Emily is neglected even at home.  Because of this maternal overload, the mother bemoans, "There was so little time left at night after the kids were bedded down."

When Emily becomes "Somebody," the mother says her daughter is "as imprisoned in her difference as she had been in anonymity," suggesting again this ambiguity.  Along with this ambiguity, there is also some apathy as Emily skips her exams and as the mother concludes,

Let her be.  So all that is in her will not bloom--but in how many does it?  There is still enough left to live by.

Yet, in her concluding line, the mother does hope, asking her listener to make Emily realize

that she is more than this dress on the ironing board, helpless before the iron.

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I Stand Here Ironing

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