I Stand Here Ironing: Through the Feminist Approach

Good Essays
Topics: Sociology
Tillie Olson’s “I Stand Here Ironing” is a story told from the perspective of a young mother during the Great Depression. The woman reflects on the hardships she faced while raising her first-born child, Emily. The mother’s experiences were common to many women. The 1930s was a time when patriarchy was prevalent. Women were expected to adhere to domestic duties and pass these practices on to their daughters. Women strove to find husbands to care for them and start families with. Few women obtained the satisfaction of fulfilling their personal ambitions. After years of striving to fit the socially constructed role of a “woman,” the mother in the story regrets the decisions she made and feels a lack of accomplishment. Emily shares this realization as she witnesses and learns from the mistakes of her mother. She refuses to conform to societal norms in the hopes of achieving a fulfilling life. From the feminist critical perspective, I interpret this story as a depiction of women in a male-dominated society who progress from blind subjugation to realization, resulting in the desire for their daughters to accomplish the things they could not.
The mother’s husband abandoned her, leaving her alone at a time when being a young, single mother was unconventional in society. The difficult circumstances led her to unknowingly accept subjugation in an attempt to fit her role in the patriarchal society. Because males were so dominant in the society she grew up in, the mother discredits herself and capitulates her power to the men in her life: “I had to bring [Emily] to [her father’s] family and leave her” (925). Society instils in her the idea that women are powerless. Rather than fighting it, she succumbs to societal norms and victimizes herself through her femininity. She describes how her “breasts ached with swollenness” (925), suggesting womanhood is painful and vulnerable. Women were given little autonomy, which is evident as the mother continually allows people she



Cited: Olson, Tillie. “I Stand Here Ironing.” Short Fiction: Classic and Contemporary. Charles Bohner, Lyman Grant. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education Inc, 2006. 924-925. Print.

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Good Essays

    I Stand Here Ironing

    • 415 Words
    • 1 Page

    The Meaning Behind The Iron When reading the short story ? I Stand Here Ironing? written by Tillie Olsen I analyzed the story by using both feminist criticism and the formalist strategy. The author uses a iron as a metaphor for how the woman in the story tells the life of her daughter and why her daughter is the way that she is. In a way the woman lays everything out on the table and irons it out straight. Many single mothers can relate to this story because it tells about the hardships that some…

    • 415 Words
    • 1 Page
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    I Stand Here Ironing

    • 570 Words
    • 3 Pages

    A Theme is Controlled Though the Setting and the Atmosphere In the short story “I Stand Here Ironing” by Tillie Olsen there is an atmosphere which has an overwhelming feeling of torment and a sense of regret. Taking place during the 1930s and 1940s a single mother has to cope with the Great Depression, WWII, and the feminist movement of the 1950s while raising her first born daughter Emily. A conflict is created by the lack of understanding the single teenage mother has for raising her first…

    • 570 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    I Stand Here Ironing

    • 569 Words
    • 2 Pages

    Jessica Hyde, Eng 1302-007, 9/4/11 For my paper, I chose to write about the short story, “I Stand Here Ironing,” by Tillie Olsen. In the story, a mother of a nineteen-year-old girl named Emily is ironing some clothes, as she is pondering a recent message she received from one of Emily’s counselors or teachers; a message of concerns with wanting to help her daughter. The mother begins to think back to the very beginning of Emily’s life. She starts stating all the various events that took…

    • 569 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    I Stand Here Ironing

    • 1739 Words
    • 7 Pages

    Paper – I Stand Here Ironing Kloss, Robert J. "Balancing the Hurts and the Needs: Olsen's 'I Stand Here Here Ironing,'." Journal of Evolutionary Psychology 15.1-2 (Mar. 1994): 78-86. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Jeffrey W. Hunter and Deborah A. Schmitt. Vol. 114. Detroit: Gale Group, 1999. Literature Resource Center. Web. 23 Mar. 2012. Kloss’s, "Balancing the Hurts and the Need Olsen's 'I Stand Here Ironing'",…

    • 1739 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    I Stand Here Ironing

    • 453 Words
    • 2 Pages

    The point of view and narrative structure of I Stand Here Ironing, by Tillie Olson, completely affects the theme of the story in many ways. The theme of the story is the powerful bond between mother and daughter. The point of view would have been less personal if it had been changed. The narrative structure consists of flashbacks, which are very valuable to the story and the way it is meant to be read and understood. Since the mother is talking about her daughter's history, it makes the story more…

    • 453 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    I Stand Here Ironing

    • 989 Words
    • 4 Pages

    “I Stand Here Ironing” written by Tillie Olsen, is a short story that focuses closely on a mother’s struggle to raise her daughter during the Great Depression while balancing motherly duties and sees pasts her mistakes. The family is forced to learn how to come to terms with the hardships and tries to move past them. As the narrator reminisces about her nineteen years old daughter’s childhood throughout the story, she wonders if she had not been so self absorbed, could have her daughter’s life been…

    • 989 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    I Stand Here Ironing

    • 788 Words
    • 2 Pages

    “I Stand Here Ironing” Tillie Olsen's I Stand Here Ironing addresses the issue of a mother's guilt over how her child turns out and develops into a grown woman. Although she blames herself for the daughter's problems, is it really her fault? While this short story is obviously about the mousy daughter, the mother often mentions how she feels guilty for the way her daughter Emily is, for the things she (the mother) did and did not do. The ideal mother-daughter relationship is not like the one…

    • 788 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    I Stand Here Ironing

    • 668 Words
    • 3 Pages

    A good example of Modernism is a short story called "I Stand Here Ironing" by Tillie Olsen. This story not only portrays gender roles but also family roles. Here the narrator is a mother giving the reader a glimpse into her life, choices she made as a mother, and being a single parent. Through her defense of her situation, she exposes to the reader the underlying insecurities that riddle her mind about her mothering. The tale opens with the narrator explaining the pain she feels when she is…

    • 668 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    I Stand Here Ironing

    • 478 Words
    • 2 Pages

    May 5, 2012 Outline “I Stand Here Ironing” A. Plot: The story begins with a woman ironing her daughters dress. It causes her to recount the life she as provided for her daughter Emily. As she considers her actions she wishes that she had done some things differently. Unfortunately, the depression era had left her with very few choices if any at all. So to survive and provide for her children the mother, abandoned by her husband, had unintentionally, not protected nor not made the best…

    • 478 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    I Stand Here Ironing Theme

    • 1296 Words
    • 6 Pages

    commonly used in many pieces of literature to convey a deeper meaning. Although there can be multiple themes, they all serve the same purpose and allow the reader to determine an overall meaning for themselves. Three common themes developed in “I Stand Here Ironing,” by Tillie Olsen, are the lifelong search for one’s identity, womanhood and femininity and how it can affect a person, and the inevitable hardships of motherhood. The theme of identity can serve as a way to tell a reader about the certain…

    • 1296 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Good Essays