Untraditional Techniques in I Stand Here Ironing
In "I Stand Here Ironing", Tillie Olsen uses a very untraditional plot to achieve a lasting impression with her readers. Her technique reaches out and grabs you as you read. She accomplishes this by speaking in first person, second person, and third person and by using flashbacks in non-chronological order. These techniques draw you into the plot and make you pay closer attention to what is going on.
One specific way that Olsen achieves this is by talking in first person and in third person. The story begins by saying, "I stand her ironing, and what you asked me moves tormented back and forth with the iron"(169). Here, it is thought that the entire story would be about her. But as the story progresses, the reader is faced with several flashbacks where she tells of many things and speaks in third person. She says, "She was a beautiful baby"(169). She continues to tell of this girl as the story continues, "She would call for me"(171).
Tillie Olsen also addresses someone in the story in second person. She begins, "[W]hat you asked me moves tormented back and forth with the iron" (169). The author never reveals the name of this second person, but constantly is talking to her in the story. The author quotes this mystery person, " 'I wish you would manage the time to come in and talk with me about your daughter. I'm sure you can help me understand her. She's a youngster who needs help and whom I'm deeply interested in helping' " (169). Finally, after she tells her story, she addresses this person again, "She is...