I Stand Here Ironing Questions and Answers
by Tillie Olsen

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What are some symbols of the iron in the story , I Stand Here Ironing by Tillie Olsen?

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In I Stand Here Ironing by Tillie Olsen, the mother is trying to explain or understand the reasons why she and Emily have the unsatisfactory relationship they have and why Emily is the way she is.

At first, the mother keeps ironing as she explains how she felt powerless to change their circumstances; a father that left them because he "could no longer endure" and her need to work and leave Emily with family or in a nursery. It is important to note how, she only puts the iron down when her memories of Emily's attendance at nursery school where there was "never a direct protest, never rebellion," compared to her other children, makes her feel ill. The iron represents the uselessness of the situation, the mundane, the expectations of a mother and her feelings of inadequacy. Up to this point she has talked and ironed, basically stressing that it was never her fault, she has...

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