In "I Stand Here Ironing," what does the narrator now know that she didnt know in the past?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After contemplating the metaphoric comparison of managing unruly fabric to managing unruly "youngsters," the narrator, Emily's mother, now knows the answer to whether Emily needs to be managed, the answer to whether Emily is unruly. Emily's mother's contemplation began when she received a request to come to school to discuss Emily who was described by the unidentified speaker as a "youngster who needs help." While apparently preparing for the appointment by ironing a dress, or perhaps ironing a dress for Emily in preparation for her exams the next day, Emily's mother review's her life with Emily.

In the end she realizes that Emily is not like a one-dimensional dress made of fabric that needs to be managed by an iron that removes wrinkles and sets in creases and pleats. Emily's mother realizes that Emily doesn't need managing, instead Emily needs encouragement, like she tried to give by encouraging Emily to join the talent show. In the past, Emily's mother believed Emily's losses and deprivations defined her. She comes to realize through her contemplation while ironing that even though something inside Emily may not bloom, other things inside her will bloom--in fact, perhaps all may bloom, but maybe just a little late.

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I Stand Here Ironing

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