On Her Knees by Tim Winton
In On Her Knees by Tim Winton we have the theme of pride, dignity, honesty, struggle, independence and class. Narrated in the first person by man called Victor the reader realises after reading the story that Winton may be exploring the theme of pride and dignity. Victor’s mother is a proud and dignified woman. Despite the fact that she is forced to clean other people’s houses in order to make a living she never allows this to get the better of her. There is a sense that Victor’s mother is honourable despite the obstacles she has had to face. If anything Victor’s mother though she is struggling through life remains undefeated. Something that is noticeable by the fact that she cleans the house one more time for the woman who has accused her of stealing a pair of earrings. It is also noticeable that Victor’s mother is able to put Victor through university despite the fact that her husband has abandoned her. This could be important as it suggests that Victor’s mother is independent of others. The fact that Victor’s mother is also her own boss would also further suggest that she is independent of others. Victor might be unhappy that his mother is a cleaner but she does have her own independence.
It is also possible that Winton is exploring the theme of class. Both Victor and his mother are working class though the people who have their houses cleaned by Victor’s mother are middle or upper class. The fact that they haggle with Victor’s mother over the rate she should be paid may also be important as it is possible that Winton is placing a spotlight on those who belong to the middle and upper classes. If anything Winton could be suggesting that those who are wealthy and of a class higher than Victor’s mother may be mean and blinded by self-importance. Viewing Victor’s mother as being beneath them. Something that annoys Victor because he knows how much his mother struggles. How annoyed Victor actually is noticeable by the fact that he puts the earrings in the catbox. Though Victor would like to see his mother do something else rather than cleaning houses he still nonetheless takes great pride in his mother’s ability to persevere. Which may be important as Winton could be highlighting just how strong a woman can be. Not only is Victor’s mother independent of others but she is also resilient. Despite the accusation of stealing that have been made against her. Victor’s mother keeps looking forward.
She and Victor are on their own and she knows that she has to be there for Victor (and for herself). Neither Victor nor his mother have anybody else to cushion the blows that life might throw at them. Unlike those who own the houses that Victor’s mother cleans. Not only is Winton giving the reader a strong female character but he also manages to highlight the plight of those who are working class. Particularly the obstacles they can face when engaging with the middle or upper classes. Individuals who appear to be driven by a belief that they are better than others. A cleaners role is often unappreciated something that Victor is only too well aware of. Despite this Victor’s mother does everything to the best of her ability. Regardless of what an employer may think of her. Victor on the other hand is half-hearted when it comes to cleaning. He knows that his (or his mother’s) work is not appreciated by those who he is cleaning for and as such he limits the effort he puts in while cleaning. This could be important as symbolically it suggests that Victor is aware of the class divide that exists in society. With those who are working class being under-valued.
The end of the story is also interesting as Winton appears to be highlighting to the reader just how severe the obstacles are for those who are working class. Despite the earrings being found and despite Victor’s wishes to report the matter to the police. Victor’s mother knows that she will not be believed by either the police or the woman whose flat she is cleaning. This may be important as it suggests that there are two laws in operation. One for working class people and one for those of a higher class. Which may be the point that Winton is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that an individual should not be judged solely by their occupation (Victor’s mother) or class. That everybody should be treated equally. It is also interesting that Victor removes the earrings from the catbox and places them beside the money that his mother refuses to take. It is as though both Victor and his mother know that they are better than the woman who owns the flat. As they leave the flat the reader is only too well aware that both Victor and his mother are leaving with their heads held high and their dignity intact.