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Short Stories- "The Knife" By Judah Waten Textual Analysis

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Title -The Knife

Author - Judah Waten

Anthology - Spectrum One - Narrative Short Stories. pg 133


The Knife written by Judah Waten, is a short story about a young Italian- Plinio, who has immigrated to Australia from a 'poor village in Calabria, in a very desolate part of Southern Italy'.

Plinio then starts to reminisce about the life he had back home and the reader learns that he lived in poverty and had a very modest life. It then goes on to describe Plinio walking home from work one night and he sees Mavis Keer- an attractive girl with a group of friends and her boyfriend Tommy Lawler.

Tommy notices Plinio looking at Mavis and is jealous of him, his dislike for Plinio deepens because he is Italian, so Tommy decides to humiliate him. The next time Tommy sees Plinio he knocks his hat into the gutter. The group of friends start to laugh and tease Plinio, which causes Plinios pride to be deeply hurt.

Plinio then decides to avoid the group from fear of being bashed to death. Plinio is then walking home late one night and sees Tommy and his friends. Tommy decides to bash up Plinio so he can look tough infront of Mavis. As Tommy starts to punch Plinio, he pulls out his father's knife, out of anger and frustration Plinio stabs Tommy. Tommy's friends all run away leaving Plinio, Tommy and Mavis in the street. The police and ambulance arrive as people start to crowd around shouting "A knife . . . he's got a knife."


Title- The Knife - The knife (as in the object) is very symbolic in the story as it shows a difference between the two cultures and what they associate with it. For example Plinio sees the knife as a 'symbol of his coming of age . . . his manhood' and he proudly wore his knife because it is associated with honour and respect. Where as the people in Australia who encounter the knife see it as a weapon and associate it with evilness as shown in then quote 'all their secret images of evil seemed to flow together and take a single shape 'A Knife...' The significance of the title is that it draws the reader's attention to the conflict surrounding the knife.

Exposition - The exposition of the story quickly introduces the main character Plinio and the situation he is in. The story then develops even more with the use of flashbacks to the death of Plinio's father and his old way of life. The flashback stops when Plinio emigrates to Australia and it moves to the present describing his new life.

This can be see as Juxtaposition between the two lifestyles showing the deep contrast that is present between the two different cultures.

Climax- The story then leads into the climax as Plinio is walking home late from work, this lateness foreshadows that he is going to encounter Tommy again. The climax begins when Tommy and Plinio start to fight and Tommy gets stabbed.

Anticlimax- The story then quickly anticlimaxes in a state of confusion as Plinio is stood there in a daze staring at his fathers knife very unsure of himself and the actions that just took place.

Conclusion - The conflict between Tommy and Plinio isn't resolved causing the prejudice to continue and it ends in a heightened hysteria. The fact that the story's ending does not end in acceptance it causes the reader to become more aware that if discrimination and racisms does not stop it will keep on going on and spiral out of control.

Point of View- The story is told in a third person point of view that is omniscient because it is able to tell the thoughts and feeling of all of the characters as well as narrate the events.

DIALOUGE there isn't much dialogue present in the story and most of it occurs at the end of the story where Plinio is confronted by Tommy.

Dramatic Reading-

This part of the story makes an impact on the reader because it is the most dramatic part of the story where everyone is so confused and Plinio cannot believe that he just stabbed someone and doesn't know what to do.

This extract shows the conflict between Tommy and Plinio as well as the internal conflict that Plinio experiences when he sees the irony in the fact that it was himself that destroyed his honour and not Tommy, when he drew the knife.

This part of the story also makes a connection between Tommy and Plinio which that is that they both felt as if there dignity was humiliated in front of Mavis and they tried to out do each other but it all got out of hand causing them both to loose all of the respect that they had. For example Tommy's friends all left and Mavis was bewildered at Plinio.


The setting for the story is in both Italy and Australia. The flashback is set in a poor Italian village and is described to be 'a very desolate part of southern Italy'. The setting is significant because it shows the life that Plinio had and contrasts the setting of his new home in Australia. In Australia Plinio lives in a small community with other Italians in North Melbourne. 'They were in a single-fronted, two-story apartment house in North Melbourne where at least twenty other young Italian newcomers were crowded'.

The time the story is set in is in the 1950's, this can be inferred by the use of terms such as jukebox and milkbar, as well as the slang 'garn, you're keen on that dago.'



v Plinio is the main character in the story and is viewed as the protagonist. He is a young man who is described to be a 'A well knit, good looking young fellow of twenty-three'. He is depicted to be very emotional and quiet due to the experiences in his life 'he was A quiet youth'. For example his father dying while he was young, leaving the world he knows to earn money and being unable to adapt to his new lifestyle. Plinio can also be view as the typical stereotype of an immigrant who used to live in poverty.

He is also described to have 'rather sad, black eyes that seemed a heritage of generations of tears and suffering reflected a kind of deep inner sadness'.


v Tommy is the antagonist in the story and can be seen as a foil for Plinio as they contrast



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