The major theme of the story is a search for understanding. During the entire story, the mother is searching for reasons why she is not close to her daughter. As she irons, a metaphor for trying to iron out her problems, she recounts her difficult life and the limited time she had to spend focused on her daughter because she had to earn a living. She is searching for answers about why her life turned out the way it did. As she irons, she begins to see that she allowed life and circumstances to shape her; she did not try to shape her own life. She was like the dress she is ironing. It just sits on the ironing board waiting to be pressed over. Her daughter, she hopes will realize ''that she is more than this dress on the ironing board, helpless before the iron."