Essay by dipeshp April 2005

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Analysis of Theme and Essential Elements of "I Stand Here Ironing"

The theme of "I Stand Here Ironing" is essentially Emily's mothers' responsibility for Emily's upbringing vs. Society's responsibility - Who's fault is it that Emily has had such a troubled life and continues to experience difficulties as an adult, and, what's the point of addressing that now? Since the story comes to us from the mother's point of view (the first person), it is skewed with bias. It is almost as if the mother can't (or won't) see what a poor job she has done raising Emily.

On the one hand, the mother's pain and "torment" is apparent from the very beginning of the story. Her realization that she could have done a better job, had it not been for the circumstances and life events which occurred following Emily's birth, such as a father who dealt with his parental responsibility by leaving (paragraph 8, lines 6-7, page 241) is clear.

The mother does, however, continually "shift" back and forth, as the metaphor of "ironing" implies, to invoke pity from the reader and explain that there were others, people, and other factors which played a significant role in the creation of what is now Emily. The mother continually occupies herself with the menial task of ironing as a way of coping and "smoothing out " within herself the issues surrounding her daughter's life, while not really dealing with them.

There is irony in this story in that the story begins with a nineteen-year old Emily, the very age of the mother at Emily's birth. The societal changes and different expectations for women are illustrated through the description of Emily as a single college student, gifted, talented, and assertive (paragraphs 50-53, pages 245-246) , while her mom...