Symbolism In Tillie Olsen's I Stand Here Ironing

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A common conflict within a familial unit is the parent-child relationship. There are countless works of literature that discuss and analyze the topic thoroughly. I Stand Here Ironing is a short story, by Tillie Olsen, that beautifully displays the perspective of the working single mother in the mid-nineteen hundreds. Olsen’s strategic use of several literary elements highlight the personal struggles of single mothers who have conflicting feelings about motherly duties and “bread-winning” obligations. These literary elements include: point of view, first-person narrator, stream of consciousness, symbolism, and revelation of human nature. I Stand Here Ironing is an excellent piece of literature that both elicits empathy for and critiques the…show more content…
Throughout the text the iron seems to be mentioned when there is a societal, financial, or personal issue. The iron could be used to symbolize the responsibilities of the narrator. The mother is constantly embroiled with responsibilities and duties that she must prioritize to keep her family, literally, alive. There is a passage in the text that she mentions the iron going back and forth, potentially symbolizing her constant obligations. The iron could also be a symbol of self-worth and social pressures. The narrator hopes that her daughter will not be “helpless before the iron,” suggesting that she understand that she is more that what she has seen. The narrator wants to emphasize that the daughter should learn from her mistakes and overcome the obstacles that she had to deal…show more content…
The conflict that many single women have is trying to provide for their family while establishing and fostering deep connections with their children. Often times it is difficult for single mothers because there is not enough time for both. The use of first person narration, stream on consciousness, and the point of view of the story really allow for the reader to get a empathize with the mother. Moreover, the symbolism, theme, and conflict of the story convey the unadulterated dialogue and feelings of guilt and regret. Overall, Tillie Olsen created a great piece of literature that gives an accurate depiction of the struggles that many single mothers face regarding the relationship with their children and meeting
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