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The story ‘I Stand Here Ironing’

The story ‘I Stand Here Ironing’ by Tillie Olsen is a story that reflects upon the plight and perception of women in the 1960s society. The story is about a middle-aged single mother. The story talks about the internal conflicts and worries that she faces about her abilities as a mother and her daughter Emily’s future. She is called upon by Emily’s teacher to talk about her daughter’s future. She starts to wonder if the time spent on the meeting is worth, considering that fact that she hardly has time to do household chores since she has go to work.

Instead, she vents out her pain through a monologue describing how her husband had left her alone with five kids when she was young. She recollects different phases of Emily’s life from being a baby to a self-conscious teenager, and then growing into a beautiful girl. Then, she realizes how everything had changed since she started to work, when Emily’s dad left them. She also starts to fear that her children do not get all the attention and love they need. The mother ironing Emily’s dress is a symbolism to her attempts to iron out the awkwardness with the daughter.

The story also sheds light on the working-class society in that time that expected a woman to have a paying job and still care for her children. It also portrays the joy of motherhood and mother-daughter relationships. Many elements of the story are autobiographical as Olsen was also a single mother raising five children on her own, similar to Emily’s mother’s character. The author, through her characters, presents a view into the economic conditions prevailing at that time that influenced family life and society as a whole.

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