Point of view in "I Stand Here Ironing"

Essay by agakutyna August 2004

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"I Stand Here Ironing" was written in the first person so that we could see Emily the way

her mother (narrator) saw her. Through her reverie, we feel the mother's pain that her

daughter felt ugly as a child. We ache with the knowledge that she had to send Emily to

the daycare with the "evil teacher" and to a convalescent home when she was

desperately ill. We feel her regrets that she couldn't be there with Emily as she was

growing because she was working too hard to keep the family together. When Emily is in

high school we are proud with the mother that Emily is performing on stage - and people

love her. We, too, are relieved when Emily "runs up the stairs two at a time with her

light graceful step." She has gone from a shy, awkward girl to a beautiful, confident,

graceful woman.

We sense the mother's resolve that Emily will be okay: "Why were you

concerned? She will find her way." And, with the mother, we are at peace.

By using the first person narrator style, the author gives us only one point of view. She

plainly states her theme for this hard-luck story: "We were poor and could not afford for

her [Emily] the soil of easy growth. Let her be. So all that is in her will not bloom - but

in how many does it?" Had the story been told from another point of view, say as a third

person, we may have thought that the mother was neglectful, or favored the younger

children. When we discover that the mother only smiled at the younger children, we may

think that the mother didn't like Emily. Concern has become disfavor. When we see that

Emily does...