I Stand Here Ironing
by Tillie Olsen
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
The narrator wonders whether she really knows Emily enough to respond to the teacher/counselor's question. Acting is not only Emily's talent, but also clues us into the many instances where identity is being questioned.
From very early on in her life, Emily seems to have a talent for masking how she really feels; she communicates her desires only indirectly. As a teenager, Emily transforms on the stage into a comic genius that her mother can hardly recognize. The story itself may end ambivalently, without a clear sense of where Emily's life is headed, but Emily's malleability suggests that her identity is not something set in stone. She may have the possibility of creating her own future, just as she creates new characters on the stage.