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ON HER KNEES – TIM WINTON - Lahore Grammar School

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The setting is not very important and the story is more theme centricThe story is presented in the form of a flashbackIt seems to be set in modern times i.e. vacuum cleaner, cars etc.The story is set in 3 main areas:Victor and Carol’s houseTheir CarThe mistress’s house
Carol LANG - Major AND ROUNDED Character
She was trying hard to support her family after her husband ‘bolted’She wanted her son to go to university as she felt education was very important. This was her motivation to work doubly hard and earn more moneyShe felt helpless as she couldn’t do much to prove her innocence. “..these people, they can say anything. You can’t fight back.”She was quite old and thin. Her hands were rough due to all the cleaning and her son mentions he could see the veins pop out on her legs.The author has described her in an indirect manner. The main modes of conveying information used by the author are by: a) mentioning it through conversation; b) showing it through her actions and c) by communicating it through the thoughts and feelings of her son. Also by stating her beliefs, he has highlighted many of her personality traits
Carol LANG - Major AND ROUNDEDcharacter
Victor is a 20 year old law studentHe is basically a caring person and even though he refuses to help her many times, he felt guilty for it.He is strongly against the wealthy/ affluent/ affluence as he feels they underestimate the poorer classes and over-exploit (his mother). He refers to them as the “worst payers” and “biggest slobs”The author has also described Victor in an in direct manner through the communication between him and his mother, his actions and his thoughts
She seems to be an unforgiving person mainly because she has sacked Carol without any evidence over her missing earrings even though she knows Carol is highly recommended and something like this has never occurred before.She has also not bothered to look for her earrings before she accused Carol which shows she is a) not concerned about how Carol might feel if she were unjustly accused (which she was) and b) unable to entertain the thought that she herself might have lost them c) lazy!She seems to read a lot as her library is full of books on human rights and equality and also seems to be a teacher/ lecturer at a college as there were many marked assignments on her desk. Yet knowing as much as she does, does not extend the courtesy to Carol of defending herself and is obviously not doing as she teaches or knows – the disparity between preaching and doingAs the character never makes an appearance during the story, there is no direct description. The author again uses conversation between Victor and Carol as well as the description of her house to give us clues about her personality
Victor is the narrator of the storyHe is speaking of his own experiences therefore the story is written in first personHe is narrating the story of a time when his hard working mother is accused of stealing a pair of gold earrings and fired from her job
The mood of the story is one of helplessness and hopelessness. (Carol cannot prove her innocence)the mood is set right from the beginning of the story starting from the titlePhrases used by Victor such as “they took her for granted” and to chip her rates down” show that Carol was being exploitedDespair is evident when Carol cries silently and with the physical description of herHer hands were “ravaged” and “veins stood out in her calves”Also when Victor states the “very light of day pouring out through her limbs” suggests Carol was very thin and weak
Pride and dignity of the working class:Eventhough Carol works as a house maid, she still maintains her dignity. Shedoes not do anything which may cause her to fall in her eyes.She wouldrather leave the job than apologize for a mistake she hasnot made. She can afford to do this as she is taken as adomestic benchmark, and thus has many more offers waiting in linefor her servicesBond between mother and son:The entire story in fact revolves around the relationship of themother andthe son. The mother has taken up a low, demeaning job justto supporther family and send her son to university. The son is tryingas muchas possible to help his mother and joins her at worksometimes even though he hates going
Exploitation of the helpless:In this story Carol is being exploited by every person, whose houseshe worksin. Victor repeatedly mentions that she is being underpaidand beingmade to work more and more. He refers to them as “theworst payers.” Also one of the most significant lines inthestory whichbrings this out very strongly is “..these people, they can say anything. You can’t fight back.”Affluence:Victor and Carol have very strong views on affluence/ wealthy people – theirbehaviourand lifestyles – which is in stark contrast to the bond between Carol and Victor and Carol’s dignityDignity:The difference in Carol’s idea of dignity (i.e. hard work, meticulousness and honesty are dignified) and Victor’s perception of dignity (i.e. he felt physicallabourwas demeaning therefore not dignified)
The title is suitable to the story:The story is based on rich andpoor, one personis rich who has lostthe earrings and theperson who was blamed waspoorThe poor lady used to work as a maid,thus shewas on her knees at many pointsduring herjob.The lady ,Carol Lang, was helpless.So all this can suggest why was thestory namedON HERKNEES
Thefigurativemeaning however, is ofgreater importancewhile conveyingthe theme. The title symbolizesthe helplessness.The phraseon yourknees usually meansthat yourare weak and defeated.Also itsignifies that you haveno strengthor power left todo anythingmore.In this story too, Carol isbeing exploitedand being blamedfor somethingshe has not done.Just becauseshe is poor shecannot sayanything to defend herself. Sheknows that she is notwrong butstill she must bowdown beforehermistress as she is helpless
Theauthorusesthe story to give usmany messagesTo have self confidence/ strength (like Carol, who keeps doingher work without thinking much aboutthe injusticedone toher) to not focus on an injustice to yourselfHavinga high amount of self-respect, andnot to be afraidto show it.Tobalancesreputation and dignity.Theauthor points out the bitterfact of life howeasy it is to blame thepoorThe helpless too have preconceived notions about the affluent and affluence
Re-read the story “OnHer Knees” by Tim Winton. Explorehow the author creates the feeling of helplessness anddespair.Explorethe ways in which the author showsthe understandingrelationship between the motherand son.Imagineyou are the mistress, write your reasonsfor firingCarol, also mentionwhether youthink your actionwas rightor wrong.





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ON HER KNEES – TIM WINTON - Lahore Grammar School