What is a good thesis for "I Stand Here Ironing"?

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To develop a good paper, you need to start with a thesis that you can support well. And to be able to support a thesis well, you need to begin with a position that speaks to you personally. Here are three different theses to get you started:

With supportive parents,...

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To develop a good paper, you need to start with a thesis that you can support well. And to be able to support a thesis well, you need to begin with a position that speaks to you personally. Here are three different theses to get you started:

With supportive parents, children can flourish even under non-ideal circumstances. The narrator tells us that when Emily was young, she had to endure a great deal that her younger siblings did not. Her father abandoned her. Her mother, the narrator, could barely provide for her. She was sent to live with her father's relatives at least twice so that her mother could earn enough money to support her. Yet the narrator never gives up on Emily, not even in her young and inexperienced motherhood. She keeps loving her, even when there seems little left over to give, and Emily finally finds her own passions. At the end, her mother writes:

She is so lovely. Why did you want me to come in at all? Why were you concerned? She will find her way.

The narrator uses the metaphor of ironing to show how motherhood is infused with pressure, mindless tasks, and problem-solving. This thesis has the three body paragraphs built in (which some students and/or teachers like). In this paper, you would begin by explaining how ironing uses pressure to eliminated unwanted wrinkles, how it is a mindless task that must be done sometimes, and how it takes some general problem solving to produce a wanted result in the fabric.

The body paragraphs would then follow. You could explain how the narrator's life was filled with various external pressures (lack of food, husband abandoning her, so many little children to care for) that she learns to navigate for the sake of her children. The next paragraph could examine how motherhood is often a mindless task, full of things that must be done which consume the day, especially with numerous little children (in this story—packing lunches, combing hair, getting them to bed, etc). The final body paragraph could examine how the narrator is forced to solve problems to keep her family together (sending Emily away a couple of times, finding work herself, using Emily as a second mother for the younger children).

"I Stand Here Ironing" examines the irony in one mother-daughter relationship: When Emily is young and needs her, the narrator is too busy trying to otherwise provide for her, and when the narrator later wants to be closer to her daughter, Emily has learned to survive independently. Early in the story, the narrator recalls having to leave Emily at nursery school:

She always had a reason why we should stay home. Momma, you look sick, Momma, I feel sick. Momma, the teachers aren't there today, they're sick. Momma, we can't go, there was a fire there last night. Momma, it's a holiday today, no school, they told me.

Here and in other places, the young Emily longs for time with her mother, who doesn't have any extra time to give because of the oppressive nature of poverty. Later, the narrator reaches out to her older daughter and finds an ironic shift:

Now when it is too late (as if she would let me hold and comfort her like I do the others) I get up and go to her at once at her moan or restless stirring. "Are you awake, Emily? Can I get you something?" And the answer is always the same: "No, I'm all right, go back to sleep, Mother."

Is this the ironic twist of parenting? The days of little ones are filled with so many tasks that childhood slips by in the daily chaos, parents urging their little ones to become more and more independent—only to find themselves fairly shut out when they have more time in later years by independent older children.

Hopefully these theses give you some ideas of where you might want to begin planning your paper. Good luck!

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