“I Stand Here Ironing” is a short fiction piece about a mother being questioned about her daughter. Except it’s not an interview- we don’t ever hear the questions that prompt her responses. Instead, we see the mom’s unfiltered brain jump from memory to memory concerning her raising Emily. This story is interesting because we don’t see the full picture, we only see the bits mom chooses to remember. Surely there are so many more memories in her head, why are we shown these specific ones? What significance do they hold? Ah, slice of life stories.
There are several integral parts to this story that make it compelling to read:
- The mothers questioning of herself; this is an excellent vessel that you can utilize to characterize how a person thinks of themselves in the piece. In “I Stand Here Ironing”, it helps emphasize the mothers neurosis towards the particular daughter, Emily, in question.
- This is frequently overlooked in fiction but attention to tenses can really play an important role in a story. Almost all of this story is presented in past tense. But there is one scene near the end where the mother is called back to reality by her crying son. This moment is jarring, but I liked it a lot. It was such an abrupt jolt from the mom’s dream like state.
- Comparing. Not directly in the story, but the mother does it. Which is enjoyable for the reader to watch as she struggles with her past decisions on how each kid of hers was raised. All of them are compared to Emily.
- One thing I personally really liked ( I know it drives some people crazy) is the lack of new speaker, new paragraph. I know its generally a formality, but here it was a stylistic choice. It changes how the writing is read! For me, it made the actual dialogue less important, and instead emphasized tone of the dialogue and what what was being said means to the narrator.
- Another thing that really struck me was the ever present opinion of others surrounding the mom. We get opinions form an old man, pregnancy books, day care people, school workers and officials as well as other parents. And we see how these things change her actions.