What is unique and universal about "I Stand Here Ironing?"

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The universal traits of the short story/monologue "I Stand Here Ironing" are essentially the themes that are presented, which could be issues that happen to many people. These issues include:

  • motherhood-  The narrator is telling the issues that she went through with her daughter, Emily. All her issues are based on the fact that she is a mother. Moreover, the narrator continues to give birth to children that she may not be able to take care of, if it weren't for Emily. As Emily returns from her recuperation and helps in the household, the narrator wishes for her to have a better life than her own. 
  • financial struggles- We all know those. They ruin everything, and the marriage of the narrator falls apart because of financial struggles that come from the crash of the market and the Great Depression. 
  • social support- Emily contracts the measles, goes to a public resting home, and comes back feeling unsupported and alone as a result.
  • disease- Measles are easy to get. Disease is rampant, especially in poor and underdeveloped societies. 

The things that are unique to this story include the narrator's view of the world. She seems not to understand that there are options out there. Then again, her world is quite limited and she is a product of her society.

She is content with "standing there ironing." She understands that her role is to be a mother and stay within the confines of the poorer classes. While this is an expected reaction from someone less fortunate and educated, it is unique to her particular status and situation. 

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I Stand Here Ironing

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