Sometime in 1932, Tillie Olsen began a 42 year journey on a novel that would later be recognized as possibly the single most important work about the 1930's. Almost 30 years into this journey, she published the novella "Tell Me a Riddle- along with three other novella's including "I Stand Here Ironing-; the prior earning her the O. Henry Award as the best American story of 1961. The latter, however, is no less spectacular as it flows seamlessly from paragraph to paragraph for four pages and encompasses 19 years of life. "I Stand Here Ironing-, the focus of this paper, is found in Prof. Helton's "moral choice- section of his Humanities 212 class. Unless you began reading this novella with this avocation in mind, it is easy to miss how this story ties into moral choice or even belongs in the section. However, for the majority of this selection, the author goes into relatively fastidious detail exploring how both the nature and nurture spheres of her first born daughter's rearing has failed her. It is obvious the mother feels a rather cumbrous burden of guilt for her Emily's rearing; however, through this reminiscence by the mother and the ingenious writing of the author, the reader suffers along with the mother in trying to discern whether or not she should feel this feelings and if she is responsible for her daughter's grievous upbringing and adolescence. These underlying sentiments and just the thoughts that the writing puts into the back of your mind are what makes this an excellent selection and an essential reading for Helton's study on moral choice.
The story opens with the mother contemplating a request made that she come in and discuss her daughter. "In- more than likely being to her school and speak to a teacher or administrate. The mother goes on to think that there is no way she could go in and be of any use. She didn't have a magical key that would unlock the intricacies of her daughters mind.