Study Guide

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand What's Up With the Ending?

By Helen Simonson

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What's Up With the Ending?

Knit One, Kill Two

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is a charming little love story about a man dealing with conflicts everyone deals with as they age—old age vs. youth, modernity vs. tradition, and shotguns vs. old women with knitting needles.

Folks, the ending to this book is insane. First, the Major performs a dramatic rescue, saving Mrs. Ali from her husband's family, a family that wants her to live a traditional—i.e., boring—life, instead of shacking up with some white dude. Then, they literally shack up, getting it on Golden Girls-style in a shack in the woods.

When they get back to town, Amina is supposed to be married to Mrs. Ali's nephew, Abdul Wahid. Except a crazy woman related to Abdul Wahid has stabbed Amina with her knitting needle. Abdul Wahid takes the old woman away, and the two go to the cliffs where Abdul Wahid plans to throw himself into the ocean. A suicide-prevention guard tries to stop him, but the old woman scares him away, giving us the book's greatest line: "Some old lady with a weapon and a foul mouth threatened to stick me in the gonads" (24.21).

So the Major throws down with the old woman. It's knitting needle vs. shotgun, a bloody rock-paper-scissors on cliffs above the sea. The old woman is the ultimate traditionalist, but she's part of a tradition in which people should just die instead of living in sin. To anger her, Mrs. Ali tells her about all the hot hot sin she and Major got up to in the woods. The woman goes wild, so the Major SMACKS HER IN THE HEAD WITH HIS SHOTGUN. It's crazy. Mrs. Ali and the unconscious old woman are taken away, and it's up to the Major to talk Abdul Wahid down.

He does, but not before the gun goes off and accidentally shoots the Major in the leg. The Major's okay, but the gun disappears into the ocean forever. The Major proposes to Mrs. Ali in the hospital, and, even though no one in the town approves of this scandalous interracial union, he marries her soon after. Modernity triumphs. We think they'll live happily ever after… just no knitting in their presence, thank you very much.

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