On Her Knees by Tim Winton

On Her Knees - Tim WintonIn 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.

Cite Post
McManus, Dermot. "On Her Knees by Tim Winton." The Sitting Bee. The Sitting Bee, 3 Feb. 2018. Web.


  • Good analysis but try to analyze critically.

  • What does the eating symbolize in the story?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      In all likelihood the fact that the narrator shares lunch with his mother suggests that he is connected to his mother. That he understands the difficulties she has to go through for the two of them.

  • The structure of the whole story.

  • Didn’t quite help.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      I’m surprised it didn’t help. The link given provides the information as to what the structure of a story is. Which is what I thought you were looking for. All you need to do is take the information from the link and apply it to the story.

  • How does the theme “struggle” fit into this story?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      The narrator feels as though his mother has had to struggle since his father left her. Rather than cleaning houses he would prefer for his mother to be doing something else.

  • What does the earring symbolize in this story?

  • Hey….figures of speech for this story….reply asap coz I got a presentation on modal.
    Thank you

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Sorry Safiyyah. I have a back log of stories I’m working on at the moment. Can I suggest you follow this link here and read the story. Good luck with your presentation.

  • Can you give me a summary of all the characters please? I need it for my story review

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Mother – Hard working and is honest and wants to do the right thing regardless of how lowly paid she is.

      Son – Doesn’t like the fact that his mother has to clean other people’s homes and knows he can trust his mother.

      Woman with earrings – Too quick to judge the narrator’s mother because of her perceived class and the supposed value of the earrings.

  • How does the author create a sense of despair and helplessness in his story ?? Please give me 4-5 reason for the same

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      1. The narrator’s mother is reliant on her job to keep her and the narrator together.

      2. The narrator himself feels helpless and would prefer that his mother did not have to clean other people’s homes.

      3. The narrator also despairs at how his mother is treated by some of the people whose homes she cleans.

      4. The narrator wants to take control at the end of the story and help his mother but his mother doesn’t allow him. She remains honest till the end.

  • What is the relationship between mother and son at the end of the story?

  • Very helpful.

  • Helped me to understand the story better. Thank you so much for spending your time on this.

  • how does winton make the audience feel empathy for victors mother?

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      1. She struggles which draws empathy from the reader

      2. He husband left her making life tougher on her and Victor.

      3. She will not let others drag her down (incident with the earrings).

  • Really helpfull, thanks. Can you help me with an essay? I have to give three points on why we (as readers) should feel empathy for Victor´s mother. Can you please help me, thanks

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      1. She struggles which draws empathy from the reader

      2. He husband left her making life tougher on her and Victor.

      3. She will not let others drag her down (incident with the earrings).

  • If you were victor what would be your hopes for the future..after your mother has served her week’s notice? Please also express to me your feelings and thoughts on how your mother would have been treated.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      I would hope that my mother found a job n which she was appreciated or in in which I could support her. So that she did not have to deal with the problems that come with dealing with people (earrings).

  • Can u please tell me why the theme of the story is Pride? Please. By the way it is very helpful. Thanks

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Victor’s mother despite her circumstances takes great pride in everything that she does. She doesn’t allow for her or Victor’s circumstances to get her down nor does she allow the people whose houses she cleans get the better of her.

  • Nice, I would like you not to be so narrative. You explained it well and also elaborated so well done.

  • Hey. I need help with the charter sketch of both the mother and the son. Could u help me

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      The mother is hard working and proud. She believes in earning her money. The son is a little bit angry because he believes his mother is being ill-treated. He loves her dearly and does not want to see her taken advantage of.

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