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The central idea to the short story "I Stand Here Ironing" is the struggle of a single woman and single parent who tries to balance her working life with her role as a mother. This was a story published in the 60s before the perspective of a single, working mother was a common one to hear. It is about the internal conflict of a mother who felt she may not have done her best by her daughter. She says that she worries about what she "did and did not do" for her. The piece is a monologue that explores what more the mother should do for her daughter, Emily now, and the guilt she feels for having done some horrible things to her in the past. The point of the monologue is to establish an understanding of the character's relationship with her daughter while exposing the unique viewpoint of this woman. It also intends to expose the conditions and situations of the lower class and elicit empathy for these living conditions from the reader.
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