On Her Knees

Re-read On Her Knees. How does Winton’s writing make this conversation such a satisfying ending to the story?

The ending of On Her Knees is a very satisfying one, and readers take comfort and satisfaction in knowing that Carol has taken the higher road and thus proven herself to be much more worthy and righteous than her oppressive upper-class employers.

In the beginning of this section, the situation seems hopeless and Carol seems unjustly wronged. The readers finds angst and sorrow in the seemingly irrefutable claim against Carol’s innocence. The Catch-22 that the endearing Carol seems to be trapped in aggravates readers- she couldn’t ‘report [the earrings] missing herself’ for the fear of losing her other jobs in the gossip that would occur, and couldn’t ‘give the place a light go through’ because it would look like an admission of guilt. However, this aggravation only serves to provide more fulfillment at the end when it is morphed into happiness and a sense of satisfaction as they find the earrings and take pride in themselves for holding their dignity- proving their upper class oppressors wrong.

When they find the earrings- ‘from wads of lint and hair and dirt came an earring’- a glimmer of joy and hope shines through as readers are reassured that Carol and their son are righteous people and aren’t thieves. The eating is a metaphor for the hope that emerges from the melancholic mood of the story. It emerges from ‘ wads of lint and hair and dirt’- representative of the grayed and despondent situation that Carol is caught in. This seems to be the climax of the story- the point that leads up to a satisfying ending.

The writer then took the earrings and threw them in the cat litter when his mother said that her name hadn’t be cleared with the finding of the earrings, highlighting her frustrating situation and the implications of the class divide. The readers lose that sense of satisfaction, but this only serves to make us value that satisfaction more- taking it away and thrusting it back; the toying of the reader’s emotions makes the satisfaction even more overwhelming. The satisfaction is regained when the writer picks up the earrings and puts it ‘beside the unstrung key and the thin envelope of money’. The reader finds great satisfaction in knowing that the mother has redeemed herself- the earrings represent the honesty and purity of the woman and the new found understanding of the son; the unstrung key representing the years of dedicated service; the thin envelope illustrating the selfishness of the employer and the upheld dignity of the mother. The feeling of satisfaction emanates from the approval that readers give when they read of the writer’s and Carol’s actions- they had not resented the upper class but rather upheld their dignity and proved themselves to be more righteous and be in possession of better values than their upper class employers.

In the last paragraph, Winston writes ‘It seemed like the very light of day was pouring out through her limbs’. This sentence glorifies the mother- the light of day is a metaphor that stands for all that is good and righteous, all the faith, hope, and dignity that Carol upholds. Her limbs are all that have sustained her and shaper her livelihood, and it is very fitting that the hope and light pour out through them. Although the problem with the earrings has not been resolved with the employer, Carol finds her reprieval in herself- in knowing that she is right and has not trespassed any moral virtue. Her son understands tho, and when he sees his mother standing in the doorway he takes pride in it; takes pride in her.

The ending of On Her Knees gives readers a sense of satisfaction in knowing that the mother has emerged as the dignified and righteous woman, the didactic message that moral virtues outweigh any baseness that the social class divide may cause reassures readers and endows us with immense gratification and appreciation.

I’m sorry, this isn’t a very good essay. I was just trying to plow my way through this story as it was tested in my mock exams and I’d barely studied for this story- I did get 22/25 for this though, apparently it wasn’t too bad. But in comparison to the 24/25 I got for my unseen and the 23s I got for everything else, it certainly is a little weensy bit below par. I don’t think this essay deserved a 22 at all, actually. The problem with this essay is that I didn’t include many literary techniques or go into the structure at all. Also, I described the plot- and the examiner would know the plot like the back of his/her hand. What they want to know is your interpretation and understanding of the story. Yep. Just so you take note of it and not make the same mistake I did. 


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