In “The Lumber Room” and “The Storyteller,” Saki explores the relationship
between children and adults. Describe these relationships and discuss how
the writer creates his characters.
In both “The Lumber Room” and “The Storyteller,” Saki creates
interesting relationships between children and adults. In most of Saki’s
stories he tends to favour the children rather than the adults. This makes
his stories humorous and interesting.
In “The Lumber Room,” Nicholas is portrayed as quite a stupid little
boy after telling his aunt that there was a frog in his breakfast. But soon
we discover that he put it there himself and as the story develops we see
that Nicholas is much smarter than his aunt. He uses his punishment to his
advantage by deciding to go into the lumber-room. Nicholas prepares every
aspect of his plan so he won’t get caught; he even practises turning the
key in a lock and leaving everything the way he found it. This shows that
Nicholas is able to outsmart his aunt.
Nicholas was told by his aunt not to go into the Gooseberry garden so
he followed her instructions, therefore making her think she has power over
Nicholas, even though he is spending his time in the lumber room, “he had
no intention of trying to get into the gooseberry garden, but it was
extremely convenient for him that his aunt should believe that he had.”
When the aunt is looking for him, she goes and looks in the gooseberry
garden, thinking that he has disobeyed her, even though he hasn’t. When she
falls into the rainwater tank, and tells him to come and help her, Nicholas
replies by telling her that he is not allowed in the gooseberry garden.
Nicholas twists all his aunt’s words and he describes her as “the Evil One”
that is tempting him so he will get into trouble. The aunt tries to
manipulate Nicholas, but he ends up manipulating her because he senses her
weaknesses and uses it to his advantage.
Saki creates Nicholas’ character so effectively by making him so
perfect, yet so mischievous. The reader is drawn to his character because
it reminds us of what the reader was like as a child and so we feel close
to him. He constantly twists his aunt’s words and makes her seem like the
bad one. The aunt seems like a boring person and very stuck in her own
ways. She doesn’t have time for Nicholas’ games and she doesn’t have any
sympathy or compassion when Nicholas’ cousin hurts herself, “she’ll soon
get over that.” There doesn’t seem to be any trust between Nicholas and his
aunt regarding the gooseberry garden and she doesn’t tend to listen to the
children, “you often don’t listen when we tell you important things.” Saki
doesn’t describe Nicholas’ physical appearance so that the reader can
imagine what he would look like.
Nicholas is also a very determined and intelligent character and this
is shown when he makes his plans to get inside the lumber-room. He knows
his aunt will think, he will try and get into the gooseberry garden and so
he can deceive her, “I was told I wasn’t to go into the gooseberry garden.”
Nicholas also seems to be able to appreciate things for someone of such a
young age, “Nicholas was in an unknown land, compared with which the
gooseberry garden was a stale delight, a mere material pleasure…a
storehouse of unimagined treasures.”
In “the Storyteller,” the aunt finds it difficult to occupy and
control the children. She tries to direct their attention to things outside
the carriage, “Come look out the window…look at those cows!” The children
are very impatient and demand a good story, the aunt tries to tell a good
story but the children don’t like it. When the man in the same carriage
tells them a story, the children finally calm down. “The story began
badly,” said the smaller of the small girls, “but it had a beautiful
ending.” The children tell the man that it was so good that it was
“horribly good.” The aunt is very jealous and angry that he could control
the children and that she couldn’t, “a most improper story to tell young
Saki creates the character of the children by describing them very
simply as “a small girl, and a smaller girl and a small boy,” to make the
reader imagine what they look like for themselves. The children are also
described as “emphatically occupying the compartment,” and they seem to
take a lot of energy out of the aunt.
The two stories are very similar because both aunts cannot control
the children and the children outsmart the adults in their childlike ways.
In the end the reader favours the children more, because the adults
constantly say that they can’t have this and they can’t have that and still
the children win.
“The Storyteller” gives an insight into the children’s minds. It
shows the reader how the children would like the aunt to tell them stories
and their views towards the people around them. “The Lumber Room” also
gives an insight into Nicholas’ imagination and how he is able to outsmart
his aunt; this makes the reader closer to the characters because they
understand what the children are thinking.