Helpless Before The Iron In Olsen's "I Stand Here Ironing"

In Tillie Olsen's "I Stand Here Ironing," the narrator seeks, through language and memory, to construct her past, to make meaning from and come to terms with her life in an effort to "total it all", and to gain a better understanding of her actions as a mother. While the mother is standing in front of an ironing board ironing, she sifts through her memories and debates on the subject of whether or not she has been a good mother. One finds that the narrator is defenseless as a mother because of her youth, her single status, and her poverty level.
Firstly, the narrator is very young at the time of Emily's birth. The mother has not enough time to grow up for herself and thus does not ...

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just one line in the story, this statement packs powerful reasoning into the mother's helplessness, showing how her immaturity and lack of knowledge is working against her and to no fault of her own.
Closely related is the narrator's single status in a time of male dominance and no charitable family organizations. The mother is acquitted from any wrong doing because her husband abandons her and Emily early in the story because he " could no longer endure" (p. 169). This act causes the mother to have to raise Emily on her own and with no experience. This proves to be one of the major causes of the families turmoil. There is no time to spend with Emily because there are now new responsibilities for the narrator to do household duties and take care of Emily and the rest of her children.
Along with being young and single, the narrator is also helpless because of her financial status. She often finds herself having to work apart from her children. In the story, the narrator explains ...

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Helpless Before The Iron In Olsen's "I Stand Here Ironing". (2005, April 18). Retrieved January 19, 2019, from
"Helpless Before The Iron In Olsen's "I Stand Here Ironing".", 18 Apr. 2005. Web. 19 Jan. 2019. <>
"Helpless Before The Iron In Olsen's "I Stand Here Ironing"." April 18, 2005. Accessed January 19, 2019.
"Helpless Before The Iron In Olsen's "I Stand Here Ironing"." April 18, 2005. Accessed January 19, 2019.
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Added: 4/18/2005 07:22:22 PM
Category: Book Reports
Type: Premium Paper
Words: 655
Pages: 3

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