Tillie Olsen Writing Styles in I Stand Here Ironing

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Structure and Point of View

The story is told through the interior monologue of an unnamed mother as she irons her daughter Emily's dress. The catalyst for the monologue appears to be a request from an unspecified source, perhaps a school guidance counselor, for help in understanding the narrator's troubled daughter. The monologue consists of the narrator's fantasies, presented in a stream-of-consciousness manner, about what she might say in response to such a request.

Such a narrative structure not only provides a dramatic context to draw the reader's attention, but it also serves to quickly establish the story's confrontational tone and introduce the narrator's repressed, frustrated character. Olsen's challenge is announced in the very first sentence, with the unusual appearance of the second person pronoun: "what you asked me moves tormented back and forth with the iron." The narrator begins questioning the validity of her own perspective on her...

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This section contains 580 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the I Stand Here Ironing Study Guide
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Short Stories for Students
I Stand Here Ironing from Short Stories for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.