Character of Nicholas in The Lumber Room by Saki

Nicholas is the protagonist of the story in the short story The Lumber Room by Saki, Hector Hugh Munro. Though no physical description or age is given, the powerful character description depicts an intelligent child with a very creative imagination.

Ability to create and control events

Nicholas is portrayed as a child who is capable of creating and controlling events. The shrewd way he does this depicts the intelligence of the character too. For example, at the beginning of the story he creates a situation where the Aunt has ‘been proved to be profoundly in error’ in matters about which she had ‘expressed the utmost assurance’. Further the dialogue which ensues after the children are sent on the hastily planned expedition conveys that Nicholas uses impromptu strategies to put the Aunt who does not have his quick, sharp brain into a difficult position as she is made aware of the truth, i. e. the children would not enjoy the expedition, by Nicholas. She loses control of the situation and changes the subject as she is confronted with loss of face.

Additionally, the question and answer session between Nicholas and the Aunt when while she was in the rain- water tank not only conveys his shrewdness but also the maturity in strategic handling of the situation.

"Now I know that you are the Evil One and not aunt," shouted Nicholas gleefully; "when we asked aunt for strawberry jam yesterday she said there wasn't any I know there are four jars of it in the store cupboard, because I looked, and of course you know it's there, but she doesn't, because she said there wasn't any. Oh, Devil, you have sold yourself!"

Thus Nicholas excels in creating and controlling situations to his benefit during a very short period of time especially when pitted against his slow witted Aunt.

You may read Do not be too smart with kids, Lumber Room by Saki.



Nicholas’s maturity is especially clear when compared with the juvenile behavior of the other children. Nicholas does not shed a tear when he is excluded from the expedition though it is expected from him. But in contrast his girl-cousin howls and weeps when she scraped her knee and ‘the tightness of Bobby's boots had had disastrous effect on his temper’. The other children suffer without complaining but Nicholas is not afraid of the Aunt and is smart enough to point out her flaws. He criticizes her child rearing capabilities pointing out her lack of attention to the children’s needs which is suggested through the following line.

‘You often don't listen when we tell you important things’.

Thus it seems that he is the only child who rebels against the tyranny of the Aunt. But what is admirable in his personality is that he remains cool and composed in all situations. His maturity is shown yet again when his assessment of the outcome of the expedition is proven correct. The reader does not see happy children at the tea table describing the fun time they had at the Cove.

Yet we do not witness a gloating Nicholas as evidence around him was proof enough for the fact that the expedition had lost its main purpose: make Nicholas repent his deeds. Furthermore, Nicholas has the mature ability of escaping from the depressing atmosphere around him to enter a fantasy world of his liking recollecting happy events.


Vivid imagination

Another characteristic is the power of his vivid imagination which is shown through his response to beauty. In the Lumber room Nicholas sees a tapestry where ‘a man, dressed in the hunting costume of some remote period, had just transfixed a stag with an arrow’. The tapestry becomes a ‘living-breathing story’ for Nicholas. His creative ability is brought out vividly as he builds the story and pictures the fate of the hunter.

‘Nicholas sat for many golden minutes revolving the possibilities of the scene; he was inclined to think that there were more than four wolves and that the man and his dogs were in a tight corner’.

Later Nicholas recalls the scene on the tapestry during ‘fearsome silence’ at the tea table. He creates the end to the story:

‘The huntsman would escape with his hounds while the wolves feasted on the stricken stag’.

Furthermore, his imagination is always ready to animate the inanimate. The sight of the colorful mandarin duck makes him commence on ‘assigning a life-history to it’.

All examples above convey and strengthen the idea that Nicholas is not a mere dreamer but has a vivid imagination and creative power which allows him to escape the hostile world outside.


Intelligent and smart

Nicholas is Intelligent and has a sharp, quick mind. The logical built up of the argument to prove that it is not the aunt but ‘the Evil One tempting him to be disobedient’ conveys how quick thinking and intelligent he is.

Nicholas is smart. According to Nicholas when compared with the lumber room,

‘The gooseberry garden was a stale delight, a mere material pleasure’.

Thus he is smart enough to prioritize his sources of pleasure. He is able to discern between the sublime bliss gained through the beauty of the artifacts in the lumber-room over the ‘material pleasure’ obtained through frolicking in the gooseberry garden.

The gooseberry garden may provide fruit eat and he may be able to play in it. These would give him ‘pleasure’ which is physical. But supreme aesthetic delight would come from the time spent in the lumber room. So he is smart and intelligent enough to decide and choose the lumber room over the gooseberry garden.

Mischievous rebel

Nicholas is not all good. Saki’s realistic portrayal of his protagonist as a mischievous rebel shows the complexity of Nicholas’ complex personality. The Aunt is the victim of his mischievous rebellious nature. Nicholas is a rebel as he does not follow the conventional standard behavior of a child; He mocks his aunt proving that she is wrong and is not truthful.

 ‘You said there couldn't possibly be a frog in my bread-and-milk; there was a frog in my bread-and-milk.’

The simple hidden goal of this action would have been to avoid the hated tasteless meal. Further, one of the lies of the aunt’s is craftily exposed by Nicholas in the following conversation between the aunt who is in the rain-water tank and Nicholas.

"Will there be strawberry jam for tea?" asked Nicholas innocently.

"Certainly there will be," said the aunt.

But Nicholas joyfully states that previously she had said ‘there wasn't any’. Thus Nicholas proves that though the Aunt tries to instill right behavior patterns in the children she herself does not set a good example.

In another occasion, Nicholas points out two reasons why the Jagborough expedition is going to fail to annoy his aunt. Cheerfully Nicholas gives the first reason. Pointing out the fact that his girl-cousin, who scraped her knee rather painfully against the step of the carriage, will not enjoy the expedition he states,

"How she did howl!"

Then with a grim chuckle Nicholas gives the second reason.

"Bobby won't enjoy himself much, and he won't race much either," as his boots “are hurting him. They're too tight."

Thus Nicholas grabs every opportunity to mock and provoke the Aunt. But the reader does not witness the rebel in Nicholas resorting to tantrums. As he is debarred from the expedition, though expected of him, he did not shed any tears. His sharp, quick mind already had a plan where he could enjoy his punishment especially in the absence of the other children.

Saki’s development of the character of Nicholas makes the reader feel that the rebellion against the Aunt is justified. The Aunt seems to deserve such a reaction as she lacks psychological understanding of a child’s natural reaction to an over strict upbringing.

Nicholas as mischievous character is a continuous source of humor throughout the short story. All his pranks are psychological battles against the authoritarian behavior of the Aunt. His sharp mind works out methods to outsmart the Aunt and the success he gains makes the reader sympathize with rather than criticize his behavior.

In conclusion,

But in the final assessment of Nicholas’s character the reader sympathizes with his disobedience and admires his ability to survive through the hostility of the Aunt. Thus the author places the blame on the Aunt and her methods of bringing up children for Nicholas’s mischievous behavior.

Saki thorough his fictional character Nicholas warns the world of adults of the potentiality of the children to challenge the world of adults. As well as, he points out the negative outcomes of bringing up children in hostile way thus educating adults the way how to bring up children.

What is your idea of the character Nicholas? Leave a comment for us to improve the post. Thank goes to the original writers for their source of knowledge. Share the post to share the knowledge.



The Lumber Room: Ideal artifact for prose analysis + an epistle on child rearing by Dr. Rohini Chandrica Widyalankara

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  1. I found many character analysis on the internet. But many of them are not free. I thank you for providing this, free of charge.

    1. Thanks, thank should go to the writers who provided sources to compile this post.

  2. Thank you so much..this helped me a lot

  3. Examples to show aunts hyprocrisy and moral degradation ?

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