I know that "dole" means "benefit paid by the state to the unemployed". But I wonder how it is related to the following context.

‘I wish you didn’t have to go away,’ she blurts out and although she doesn’t cry, her face contorts into anger and sadness and she punches the wall of the bus shelter three times, hard. She feels strong with Katie. All the rest of it doesn’t matter when Katie’s here. When she’s with Katie she thinks she could go robbing from one of the empty houses like the men do and steal an iron bar or something and bash Tony and her ma and stupid Daniel in with it. Sometimes she sees it in her head. Her doing just that. Katie watching and laughing and clapping.

‘Me too, me too,’ Katie says and wraps her arms tight around her. ‘I hate not seeing you.’ She breaks away and rummages in her bag. ‘But it’s only two weeks. It feels like forever but it’s only fourteen days.’

‘One dole cheque,’ I say.

‘Exactly.’ Charlotte knows Katie doesn’t understand dole cheques any more than Charlotte understands music lessons, but she loves her for pretending.

From Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough


2 Answers 2


‘But it’s only two weeks. It feels like forever but it’s only fourteen days.’

‘One dole cheque,’ I say.

Dole cheques are paid every fourteen days. Therefore ‘One dole cheque,’ re-emphasises fourteen days.

  • I'm not sure the dole would ever have actually been paid by cheque - not least because many claimants wouldn't even have had a bank account. And I more than suspect payments in Britain were always made weekly, but searching Google Books for "fortnightly dole cheque" seems to show a strong bias towards Australian sources (despite the fact that OP's cited author Sarah Pinborough is British).
    – FumbleFingers
    Aug 14, 2020 at 11:00
  • 2
    @FumbleFingers - The following link gives an account of employment problems in Birmingham, particularly referring to two unemployed young men who receive a £100 dole cheque every two weeks to pay their rent, food and any other expenses they incur. ft.com/content/d83fe49a-f4cd-11e0-a286-00144feab49a
    – BeatsMe
    Aug 14, 2020 at 12:36
  • 3
    "Dole cheque" has been common in Britain for at least 40 years. Even that long ago almost everybody had a bank account, or an alternative such as post-office savings account that would accept a cheque. In my admittedly limited experience from that far back dole was paid by cheque and every two weeks. Aug 14, 2020 at 13:51
  • 3
    Normally the negotiable instrument used to pay benefits in the UK is/was informally called a "Giro", short for Girocheque - one of the 1964 Wilson Labour government's innovations was the National Girobank which used Post Offices as branches. A Girocheque could be turned into cash at a named post office. In 1978 Girocheques were redesignated 'cheques' but the Giro name stuck. Aug 14, 2020 at 18:11

This line serves to emphasise the class difference between Charlotte and Katie.

This whole passage of the novel has been about the friendship between the working-class girl Charlotte and the posh girl Katie, who don't really understand each other's lives and problems, but discovered friendship together nevertheless. A few quotes proving this point from above the line you're asking about:

‘That will never not be funny,’ Katie says, and her eyes shine as she looks at Charlotte. ‘I wish I could steal like you do.’ Charlotte thinks her heart will burst with pride. Sometimes Charlotte thinks Katie is a living breathing doll. She’s three inches shorter than Charlotte and a proper girly girl because her ma dresses her like that, but under the skin they’re both the same. They both hate their lives, even though sometimes Charlotte doesn’t understand quite what Katie has to hate. Katie appeared like a dream, just there one day on the wasteland, and her life is like a dream too. Proper house. Posh car. Both parents. Music lessons, like the one she’s supposed to be at now. Holidays.

Charlotte is growing up in a single-mother family, stealing from shops, suffering from her mother's new men, while Katie has a more privileged upbringing, a full family with a car and a house. "Music lessons" serves to drive home the point about the class barriers: this is something that only a posh family would afford or think worthwhile.

Charlotte could listen to Katie talk all day. It’s like music, all posh and polite. Sometimes they try to talk like each other and it’s the funniest thing.

Even their way of speaking is so different from each other. (Accent is one of the strongest class indicators in English society.) We can also see this from their conversation in this passage: Katie refers to her mother as "Mother" while Charlotte says "ma".

‘But it’s only two weeks. It feels like forever but it’s only fourteen days.’

‘One dole cheque,’ I say.

‘Exactly.’ Charlotte knows Katie doesn’t understand dole cheques any more than Charlotte understands music lessons, but she loves her for pretending.

This too serves to emphasise the difference in Charlotte's and Katie's outlook on life. For Charlotte, the period of fourteen days makes her think about a dole cheque (unemployment benefits), something which might have kept her alive if her mother was unemployed for some time, while unemployment has probably never been something close to Katie's life in any way. The next paragraph further drives home the point by reminding us that Katie's "music lessons" are as far from Charlotte's working-class life as Charlotte's "dole cheques" are from Katie's middle-class life.

Incidentally, the narrative slips into first person for this one line, Charlotte usually being referred to in the third person just like Katie. As far as I can tell, this is a mistake in the novel, rather than something deliberate to make a literary point.

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