I Stand Here Ironing Style and Technique

Tillie Olsen

Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The first-person narrative technique permits the development of a very personal interior monologue and the examination of an entire lifetime of events. These reveal the development of the child Emily and her relationship to her mother in a way that exposes the mother’s anguish and sadness. The language of the mother in describing the daughter is always loving and tender. She speaks of her as a miracle, beautiful and happy. The simple, direct sentences are appropriate to the interior monologue and reinforce the sincerity and seriousness of the thoughts expressed.

The calm, reflective tone serves to emphasize the resignation of the mother to her ineffectiveness in influencing the course of her daughter’s future. It also provides a fitting contrast to the intensity of the final lines of the story, in which the mother admonishes the note writer to let the girl be but still urges this unnamed figure of authority to convince the girl that life is not futile.