Waiting

by

Cate Kennedy

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The Narrator Character Analysis

The unnamed narrator of the story is a working-class Australian woman who is married to a farmer named Pete. The narrator has already experienced at least four miscarriages—and in the story, she’s waiting at the hospital for an ultrasound, certain that she’s about to miscarry again. While her husband has tenderly supported her through miscarriages in the past, this time she has chosen to protect him from grief by keeping secret both her pregnancy and her suspicion that it’s lost. As the narrator waits alone for her ultrasound, she reveals a little about her past medical experiences, from the brusque male ultrasound techs, to the logistics of paying for the procedure, to the heartbreak of receiving a disc of ultrasound images, even though the baby isn’t viable. But what she doesn’t reveal is much about herself. She doesn’t dwell in her suffering, explain her desire to be a parent, or elaborate much on her relationship with Pete. Nonetheless, readers can intuit a few important things. For one, some of her silence about her grief seems self-protective—she doesn’t talk about wanting to be a parent or even use the word “baby” to refer to her pregnancies, which suggests how painful these losses have been. Second, it becomes clear that she feels powerless in her life. The fate of her pregnancies and the success of her husband’s crops are out of her hands and seem doomed to repeated destruction. What she’s waiting for, it turns out, isn’t just the doctor—it’s for the chaos of her life to start making sense and for something to go her way.

The Narrator Quotes in Waiting

The Waiting quotes below are all either spoken by The Narrator or refer to The Narrator. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Grief and Loneliness Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribe edition of Waiting published in 2012.
Waiting Quotes

The horoscope page lying limp in my hands tells me everything will align for me at a time I least expect it, so I flip over to the page that’s about cakes and slices ideal for school lunches, then back again [...]

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 197
Explanation and Analysis:

Give us some privacy, says the caption, and I think, Lady, if you want privacy, stop cashing the cheques. Stop posing there with your manicured hand on your skinny hip. If you sincerely want the world to leave you alone until it forgets all about you, come and live at my place.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 197
Explanation and Analysis:

What is surprising is that people have taken the time to painstakingly fill out the Find-a-Words and grade-four level Celebrity Crosswords, people sitting right here, maybe with a lot preying on their minds, their eyes searching over a grid of letters, forwards, backwards, diagonally, hunting those letters, waiting for a sequence to jump out at them and make sense and turn into a recognisable word.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Page Number: 198
Explanation and Analysis:

She moved the transducer and gazed at the screen and then her hand came out and squeezed my leg and she looked at me and said, I’m so sorry, I can’t see a heartbeat.

Her hand there for comfort. Warmth and pulse flowing between us, skin to skin.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), The Woman (speaker)
Page Number: 199
Explanation and Analysis:

No nausea. Dull anguish like a bitter taste in my mouth, heart like a shallow dish of water I was desperate not to tip, filling my chest. That estuarine feeling of something ebbing away; those symptoms that had kept me so stupidly hopeful. Evaporating like a rainless cloud.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 200
Explanation and Analysis:

It’s funny, in the pamphlets they hand you they talk about giving yourself permission to grieve and taking time for yourself, but they never talk much about your partner. I’m not pretending I know what it’s like for him, but I look at his face and I can see that he’s worn down as it is, almost to the point of slippage, like a stripped screw.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Pete
Page Number: 200-01
Explanation and Analysis:

I’ve watched him out there some mornings, stooping down, looking at the stalks, wondering where the point of non-recovery is, where it comes and what you do once you’ve decided. So this time I spared him. Kept the news of those two blue lines on the test to myself. I look at the calendar and think of him out there on the tractor sowing that wheat, ten weeks ago to the day.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Pete
Related Symbols: Wheat
Page Number: 201
Explanation and Analysis:

Understand, I’m not a martyr.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Pete
Page Number: 201
Explanation and Analysis:

My husband is an undemonstrative man and that gesture, as he fitted his warm arms and legs around me in the narrow bed, made me see how much he understood. I woke up in the night and felt his thumb, as he slept, absently rubbing the skin on my own arm. Oh, it wears us thin, marriage. It knocks the edges off us.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Pete
Page Number: 202
Explanation and Analysis:

The natural course. Nature’s way. I’m baffled by it, I don’t mind telling you. I’ve had a gutful of it. Carving its erosion gullies through us, whipping the rug out from under us, making us eat its dust. I’m waiting for something comprehensible to jump out of this garbled mess and make sense to me.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker)
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 203
Explanation and Analysis:

He’s making the decision to open the gate into the pasture with its desiccated, knee-high wheat. Can’t stand its hopeful greenness struggling in that parched ground, knowing what three more days of this heat are going to do.

Let it go. Let the cows eat it.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Pete
Related Symbols: Wheat
Page Number: 203
Explanation and Analysis:

[...] oh, Pete, I know what you need and I can’t give it to you; I can see it in the way you scratch the dog’s tilting head just where he loves it, the thwarted tenderness of that gesture so familiar to me that I feel the heavy dish of water in my chest teeter and almost overbalance, and I ache with holding it steady.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Pete
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 203-04
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Waiting LitChart as a printable PDF.
Waiting PDF

The Narrator Character Timeline in Waiting

The timeline below shows where the character The Narrator appears in Waiting. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Waiting
Grief and Loneliness Theme Icon
Nature, Chaos, and Powerlessness Theme Icon
The horoscopes in a magazine tell the narrator that “everything will align for [her] at a time [she] least expect[s] it,” so she... (full context)
Grief and Loneliness Theme Icon
Gender, Class, and Hardship Theme Icon
On the table next to the narrator is another magazine, slightly more recent, with the same celebrity on the cover—this time, she’s... (full context)
Nature, Chaos, and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Gender, Class, and Hardship Theme Icon
The narrator is only reading the magazines to kill time, knowing that she has a long wait... (full context)
Grief and Loneliness Theme Icon
Nature, Chaos, and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Gender, Class, and Hardship Theme Icon
Once they call the narrator’s name, she’ll find out if she has the hospital’s only woman staffer or one of... (full context)
Grief and Loneliness Theme Icon
Nature, Chaos, and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Gender, Class, and Hardship Theme Icon
Whenever the narrator “break[s]” and asks if it’s still alive, the male techs say only what they’ve been... (full context)
Love, Care, and Suffering Theme Icon
Gender, Class, and Hardship Theme Icon
The narrator had the woman only once, and that time she didn’t even have to ask—the woman... (full context)
Grief and Loneliness Theme Icon
Nature, Chaos, and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Love, Care, and Suffering Theme Icon
The last three ultrasounds were with men, though, so the narrator is used to it. Every time, she waits to “have her fears confirmed,” either outright... (full context)
Grief and Loneliness Theme Icon
Love, Care, and Suffering Theme Icon
Gender, Class, and Hardship Theme Icon
The narrator no longer takes home the ultrasound films—at one point, a tech even told her that... (full context)
Grief and Loneliness Theme Icon
Nature, Chaos, and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Love, Care, and Suffering Theme Icon
Gender, Class, and Hardship Theme Icon
Today, the narrator already knows what’s coming. Last Tuesday morning, when she hit 10 weeks, she stood in... (full context)
Grief and Loneliness Theme Icon
Love, Care, and Suffering Theme Icon
Gender, Class, and Hardship Theme Icon
These days, the narrator’s doctor just fills out a request form for the ultrasound without needing an appointment. And... (full context)
Grief and Loneliness Theme Icon
Nature, Chaos, and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Love, Care, and Suffering Theme Icon
Lately, the narrator can see that Pete is thinking about giving up on his wheat crop and letting... (full context)
Grief and Loneliness Theme Icon
Nature, Chaos, and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Gender, Class, and Hardship Theme Icon
The narrator clarifies that she’s not a martyr. When she and Pete married, her mother passed down... (full context)
Nature, Chaos, and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Last March, the narrator made it to 14 weeks. Pete had just started to look more relaxed when one... (full context)
Grief and Loneliness Theme Icon
Love, Care, and Suffering Theme Icon
In the hospital afterwards, when they announced the end of visiting hours, Pete hesitated. The narrator closed her eyes, expecting him to say something. Instead, Pete undressed and climbed in bed... (full context)
Grief and Loneliness Theme Icon
Love, Care, and Suffering Theme Icon
That night, the narrator woke up to Pete rubbing her arm as he slept. Marriage, the narrator reflects, “wears... (full context)
Grief and Loneliness Theme Icon
Gender, Class, and Hardship Theme Icon
The narrator flips to an article listing the 10 steps to a “new me” and then to... (full context)
Grief and Loneliness Theme Icon
Nature, Chaos, and Powerlessness Theme Icon
The narrator knows that her doctor will offer her a procedure to clear her uterus or give... (full context)
Grief and Loneliness Theme Icon
Nature, Chaos, and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Love, Care, and Suffering Theme Icon
...real “natural course” is the fact that now, a polite male radiographer is calling the narrator’s name. She walks toward the examination room, counting her steps and thinking about the 10... (full context)
Grief and Loneliness Theme Icon
Nature, Chaos, and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Love, Care, and Suffering Theme Icon
Gender, Class, and Hardship Theme Icon
The narrator knows that, back home, Pete is deciding to open the gate for the cows to... (full context)
Grief and Loneliness Theme Icon
Nature, Chaos, and Powerlessness Theme Icon
Love, Care, and Suffering Theme Icon
The narrator knows what Pete needs—and she knows she can’t give it to him. She can see... (full context)