What is the significance of the iron and the process of ironing?I'm writing an essay and the above question I have to include in it "I Stand Here Ironing" by Tillie Olsen

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Tillie Olsen's "I Stand Here Ironing" the mother's act of ironing is a metaphor for an examination of the past in an effort to reconcile her responsibilities to and relationship with her daughter Emily.  In her stream-of-consciousness, the mother passes back and forth in time, like the iron, and attempts to "iron out" her feelings and actions.  For instance, she tells the official from the school,

I nursed her.  They feel that's important nowadays....I do not even know if it matters, or if it explains anything.

After this statement, the mother goes back over the daughter's childhood, admitting that she had to put Emily in a nurseries "that are only parking places for children"; later, she confesses to having to place Emily in an orphanage. As she irons and remembers, the mother returns to stages in Emily's life with added explanation of her actions, "What could I do?"  At times she even says, "I put the iron down" as she reflects upon Emily's character and comedic talents.  Indeed, Tillie Olsen's short story "I Stand Here Ironing" fuses both motherhood and experience in the metaphor of ironing.

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I Stand Here Ironing

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