2 SETTING AND PLOTThe 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
3 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
4 Carol LANG - Major AND ROUNDED character TRAITEXAMPLEDevoted to her familyCleaned homes to support her family and send her son to universityProud of workingShe never thought cleaning houses was beneath her even though her previous job was betterMeticulousShe surveyed the house before leaving to ensure everything was back in its placeHonestShe left the earrings even though she could have easily taken them; even though it was her last day on the job, she did her work properly
5 Carol LANG - Major AND ROUNDED CHARACTER TRAITEXAMPLEEmotionally strongShe did not like to show her weaknesses; she cried under a tree so no one would hear herGood at her jobAlthough she was sacked once, she had the liberty to change jobs as she had so many offers; she was a domestic benchmarkCautiousShe was careful when she was drivingDignifiedDoes not take the money even though it is her rightHelplessShe is helpless to protest the injustice against her but it does not weigh her down
6 VICTOR LANG – MAJOR AND ROUNDED CHARACTER 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
7 VICTOR LANG – MAJOR AND ROUNDED CHARACTER TRAITEXAMPLEIndependentWanted to get a part time job to pay for his university tuitionSelfishHated going to work with his mother as he thought it was demeaningPersistent/ StubbornHe keeps arguing with his mother about returning to the job for a weekVigilantHe is always aware of his surroundings; he notices every minute detailHelplessVictor feels helpless at the injustice done to his mother and is angered by it
8 THE MISTRESS – MINOR AND FLAT CHARACTER 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
9 POINT OF VIEW Victor is the narrator of the story He 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
10 MoodThe 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
11 Themes Pride and dignity of the working class: Even though Carol works as a house maid, she still maintains her dignity. She does not do anything which may cause her to fall in her eyes. She would rather leave the job than apologize for a mistake she has not made. She can afford to do this as she is taken as a domestic benchmark, and thus has many more offers waiting in line for her servicesBond between mother and son:The entire story in fact revolves around the relationship of the mother and the son. The mother has taken up a low, demeaning job just to support her family and send her son to university. The son is trying as much as possible to help his mother and joins her at work sometimes even though he hates going
12 Themes Exploitation of the helpless: In this story Carol is being exploited by every person, whose house she works in. Victor repeatedly mentions that she is being underpaid and being made to work more and more. He refers to them as “the worst payers.” Also one of the most significant lines in the story which brings 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 – their behaviour and 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 physical labour was demeaning therefore not dignified)
13 LITERAL ANALYSIS OF THE TITLE The title is suitable to the story: The story is based on rich and poor, one person is rich who has lost the earrings and the person who was blamed was poor The poor lady used to work as a maid, thus she was on her knees at many points during her job. The lady ,Carol Lang, was helpless.So all this can suggest why was the story named ON HER KNEES
14 FIGURATIVE ANALYSIS OF THE TITLE The figurative meaning however, is of greater importance while conveying the theme. The title symbolizes the helplessness. The phrase on your knees usually means that your are weak and defeated. Also it signifies that you have no strength or power left to do anything more.In this story too, Carol is being exploited and being blamed for something she has not done. Just because she is poor she cannot say anything to defend herself. She knows that she is not wrong but still she must bow down before her mistress as she is helpless
15 AUTHOR’s PURPOSE The author uses the story to give us many messages To have self confidence/ strength (like Carol, who keeps doing her work without thinking much about the injustice done to her) to not focus on an injustice to yourselfHaving a high amount of self-respect, and not to be afraid to show it. To balances reputation and dignity.The author points out the bitter fact of life how easy it is to blame the poorThe helpless too have preconceived notions about the affluent and affluence
16 STUDY QUESTIONSRe-read the story “On Her Knees” by Tim Winton. Explore how the author creates the feeling of helplessness and despair.Explore the ways in which the author shows the understanding relationship between the mother and son.Imagine you are the mistress, write your reasons for firing Carol, also mention whether you think your action was right or wrong.
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