In Patrick White's short story "Five-Twenty," what is a quote describing the man who drives the Holden car?

1 Answer | Add Yours

belarafon's profile pic

belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

"Five-Twenty" is a Realistic short story by Patrick White about a retired couple who become obsessed with a man driving by their house at 5:20pm every day.

Ella and Royal Natwick are a retired couple; Royal is bound to a wheelchair and every day grows more angry and resentful at the world. Ella tries to keep him happy, and considers his outbursts punishment for her failings. They become interested -- Royal annoyed, Ella eventually enamored -- with a man who drives a "Holden" car past their house each day at exactly five-twenty pm. Royal, although disparaging, views the man as a comfort that gives his life much-needed routine. Ella, after Royal's death, becomes obsessed, and after meeting the man when his car breaks down, infatuated. Unfortunately, the man has a stroke and dies the following day in Ella's arms.

The man in the Holden is described as having a strangely-shaped head, Ella commenting that it might have been a birth defect. When she finally meets him:

...she had never seen him full-face, but knew from the funny shape of his head ... His nose, like the shape of his head, wasn't up to much, but his eyes, his eyes, she dared to think, were filled with kindness ... He had a harelip, there was no mistaking, although it was well sewn.
(White, "Five-Twenty")

In fact, the unnamed man's deformities act as a renunciation for Ella's own innate self-hatred. Although she has been selfless in her life, she has been taught that she is undeserving of love, and now the man who seems to return her affections is one whom society would deem undeserving in turn. Ella's examination of the man's face shows that she is uninterested in superficiality, as she excuses his "failings" to find beauty in his eyes and the "well sewn" hairlip. This allows Ella the moral high ground even as she decries her own "adulterous" thoughts; she wants to give and receive love as an equal, herself as "undeserving" and he as "ugly" in the eyes of common thought.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,929 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question