Tillie Olsen writes about a mother who has made many mistakes in raising one of her children. The story “I Stand Here Ironing” brings to the reader an unnamed narrator who has been burdened by personal choices and circumstances often beyond her ability to change.
She is beleaguered with what she should have done and what she did do. Symbolically, the iron represents all of the motherly duties that prevented the mother from loving and embracing her oldest daughter.
Her inner thoughts come out in the form of a monologue. She tells the story of Emily and what happened to her during her nineteen years. As the mother/narrator irons her daughter’s dress, she considers what went wrong. She repeats that Emily was a beautiful baby. She followed the rules given to her as to how to take care of her baby.
Emily’s father left the family; consequently, she had to leave Emily with his family while she worked to make the money to survive. After a long time, she takes Emily back;...
(The entire section contains 623 words.)