Waiting

by

Cate Kennedy

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Wheat Symbol Analysis

Wheat Symbol Icon

Pete’s wheat crop symbolizes the narrator’s pregnancy—but more broadly, it symbolizes people’s inability to control nature. The story sets up the relationship between the wheat and the narrator’s current pregnancy by noting that Pete planted the wheat 10 weeks ago, the same week that the narrator conceived. And just as the narrator knows that her pregnancy will soon end in another miscarriage, Pete is preparing to give up on the crop—which is doing poorly in the heat—and let the cattle eat it.

In both cases, neither the narrator nor Pete can control acts of nature that seem to make little sense. Pete, for his part, has no control over the weather, which will determine the success of his wheat. When the heat never breaks, which kills his crop, all Pete can do is accept his misfortune and try something else. Similarly, the narrator’s recurrent miscarriages seem uncontrollable—no matter what the narrator does, nature seems to thwart her ability to carry a child. The course of her pregnancy follows much the same course as Pete’s wheat: it begins with a glimmer of hope that things might work out this time, and it seems destined to end with the narrator feeling powerless and devastated. The narrator’s final thought, in which she mentally tells Pete to let the cows eat the struggling wheat, suggests her disheartened acceptance that this pregnancy has failed.

Wheat Quotes in Waiting

The Waiting quotes below all refer to the symbol of Wheat. 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

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:

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:
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Waiting PDF

Wheat Symbol Timeline in Waiting

The timeline below shows where the symbol Wheat appears in Waiting. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Waiting
Grief and Loneliness Theme Icon
Love, Care, and Suffering Theme Icon
Gender, Class, and Hardship Theme Icon
...She can tell that Pete is “worn down” already. He put in a crop of wheat recently, hoping the weather would break, but it hasn’t. (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 the cows eat it, just like their neighbors have done. Some mornings... (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
...back home, Pete is deciding to open the gate for the cows to eat the wheat. He can’t stand to see the “hopeful greenness” struggle against the heat. The narrator agrees... (full context)