The story begins with a sentence “I stand here ironing, and what you asked me moves tormented back and forth with the iron” (Olsen 73). It is unusual that the story starts with a description of the mother ironing. This strategy easily draws readers’ attention and introduces the narrator character to the readers.
“I stand here ironing” is a very straightforward and simple description, but yet it conveys a deeper meaning and draws the readers into the narrative. The mother’s ironing provides the metaphor for the whole story. It acts as a vein circulating the whole structure of the story. It is a great metaphor that helps the readers to interpret the story in different levels and perspectives.
Ironing can be regarded as a kind of women’s domestic work. And in our society it is assumed that ironing the clothes is one of a woman’s responsibilities. The assumption is due to people most likely are programmed by patriarchy. Women are responsible for taking care of the family and doing all the house works. Since the narrator is a single mother in the family, she not only needs to deal with all the house works but also earn a living for her children. It is obvious what she did is already far beyond the “standard” of the society. However she will not be complimented by the society as her hardworking. Even worse, she will be blamed as the cause of the failure of her marriage. The oppression of women in society has never been a secret. The narrator dedicated her life to strive for the social change of a family structure, and the change of women’s role.
While ironing may symbolize women’s domestic work, the act of ironing can also
represent the mothering of children the act of making things ordered and neat. There are plenty of limitations that the narrator experiences: abandonment by her husband, her first motherhood and earning a living for a family. Being a young, non-experienced mother when she gave birth to Emily, she is ambivalent about her parental skills and the influences to Emily’s life. She realizes she could have been a better mother, caring her daughter more and establishing a closer relationship among them. Somehow she feels helpless and she admits...