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I Stand Here Ironing

I Stand Here Ironing


Tillie Olsen


Essay Lab | Math Shack | Videos

I Stand Here Ironing Analysis

Literary Devices in I Stand Here Ironing

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

Food is often a scarce commodity in the story, as the narrator struggles to provide the basic essentials for her daughter. Food and nourishment have a symbolic value, as well, indicating the change...


Olsen's story takes place in the most ordinary of settings: a mother, at home, ironing. As the story develops, this generic setting starts to take on specific characteristics. We learn that we are...

Narrator Point of View

Except for a few scraps of dialogue here and there, the story is told from inside the narrator's head. Its logic is governed by the narrator's train of thought. A third-person omniscient narrator,...


Olsen's story is a significant work of realism, specifically social realism, a genre of writing that focuses on the everyday life of the working classes. The emphasis in this genre is an almost jou...


We get the sense that the narrator doesn't often get much of a chance to stop and think; she's too busy doing housework and caring for her large family. This story captures her in a rare moment of...

Writing Style

You could say that the narrator's story is a kind of rehearsal. Emily's teacher (or counselor) has asked her about her daughter, and over the course of the story the narrator is thinking through he...

What's Up With the Title?

The title prepares us for the narrator before we learn anything about her: her name, her circumstances, or her personality. What kind of a person would say "I stand here ironing?" We think this per...

What's Up With the Ending?

The ending is in many ways a response to the title (see "What's Up with the Title?"). As the story draws to a close, the narrator's daughter Emily pops in and asks her mother if she will ever stop...


The story reads as if you were eavesdropping on your own parent's conference with your teacher. There are no intimidating literary allusions to W.B. Yeats or the French Revolution, no SAT words to...

Plot Analysis

While ironing, a mother thinks about her daughter.. A counselor or teacher asks the narrator for some insights into her daughter. This question prompts the narrator to reflect on her daughter's lif...


Olsen's story is partly autobiographical. Olsen gave birth to her first daughter, Karla, at age nineteen. Karla's father was often not around, and Olsen lived apart from her daughter for quite a wh...

Steaminess Rating

No sex here – this is just a story about a mother's relationship with her daughter.


The Great Depression and FDR's New Deal – "pre-relief," "pre-WPA" (9)V-mail (Victory mail) during World War II (45)The Atomic bomb – "atom-dead" (53)The Great Depression and World War II – "S...

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