The East and West Conflict in Lumber Room by Saki

 

The short story ‘Lumber Room’ by Hector Hugh Munro (whose pen name is Saki) is a controversial piece of art due to the power struggle visible in the story line. Here, Saki as usual in his other stories, highlights the follies of the adults and celebrates the wisdom of the child. The never bridging east and west conflict of generation gap and Saki’s bitter experiences as a child give the reader a novel experience to look at the child in a different perspective. As seen in the prose text, the Aunt in ‘Lumber Room’ by Saki belongs to a very conventional, narrow minded generation whereas Nicholas is very imaginative and thoughtful when contrasting to the character of the Aunt in the story.

You can watch the webinar video related to this here:


 

 

The Aunt as a conventional person.

The aunt belongs to the category of ‘Older and wiser and better people’ who think that there cannot be a coincident like frog falling into the ‘bread and milk.’ They would not believe that a child is dare enough to challenge them. Aunt thinking that Nicholas would enter the gooseberry garden proves the normal and ordinary mindset of an adult. As a conventional ‘woman of few ideas’, she thinks that the stubborn boy would try to enter the garden behind her back. She never suspects that Nicholas has another smart plan under his sleeves. Through this Saki may suggest that the children are unpredictable and smarter than elder generation. Believing in punishment to correct children is the conventional weapon of the Aunt. By punishing children, elders hurt the ego of children making them psychologically cripple. Therefore, these conventional representation of Aunt can be seen as a sharp contrast to the unconventional and radical behavior of Nicholas.

 

The Aunt as a Narrow minded person   

Aunts actions are introduced to highlight her shallow minded nature. The Aunt inventing ceremonious things and debarring the children being a part of it can be taken as a graphic example for that.  The sole purpose of her creativity is to punish the child who tries to prove that the elders are wrong. This kind of punishments are cruel and might harm the feelings of the child making him stubborn and unruly. Keeping beautiful and artistic things hidden in the lumber room from the eyes of children is another fine example of the nature of adult generation. The things valued by elders might be dull to the eyes of the younger generation. Adults should have the broader thinking of the thinking pattern of the younger generation.  

The aunt lying that there would be ‘strawberry jam’ for tea to give a psychological bribe to Nicholas is another instance of elders’ narrow minded thinking. They fabricate lies for their own benefits which is not good as children follow the steps of the elders.  Aunt seemingly thinks only of what she wants; she does not care of her children’s pain. She only focuses on the punishment given to Nicholas and the pain she would create.  As a boomerang, her action backfires. Her sudden invention of the beach party ends up with a chaos.  Aunt failing as a narrow minded person is the reaction of Saki to the elder’s shallow mindedness. Nicholas winning over aunt’s narrow minded act further extends the conflict between two generations.

 

Nicholas as an imaginative person

Nicholas representing the younger generation acts as a radical counterpart of stereotypical adult generation. He outsmarts the elders and acquire his power through his vivid power of imagination. At the beginning of the story, Nicholas Inventing the incident of the frog in his ‘wholesome bread-and-milk’ is one such example.  Though mischievous, he found a humorous way to prove that the elders ‘to be profoundly in error in matters about which they had expressed the utmost assurance.’

His flying colors of imagination is revealed when he hovers inside the hidden Lumber room. He in the Lumber room starts vividly imagining the story of the hunter and the stag. By looking at the painting on tapestry, he in his mind creates a ‘living breathing story.’ Usually, only a creative and imaginative person can carve out a story out of something simple. His admiration about the ‘twisted candlesticks in the shape of snakes’ and the ‘teapot like a china-duck’ are evident proofs of his power of imagination. Saki, by contrasting the two characters shows what elders are lacking and young children are abundant of.

 

Nicholas as a thoughtful person             

Saki proves that young children has an unimaginable capacity of intellect even to outsmart the grown up adults like aunt. Nicholas planning to enter the Lumber room and how he executed it is a picture perfect example of his brain power. He arguing with aunt about his punishment, creating suspicion in the aunt’s mind that he tries to enter the ‘gooseberry garden’, pre practicing to turn the key and entering the lumber room when he gets the opportunity is a great example to show that he is a ‘skillful tactician.’ 

His fluency and quick thinking to muddle up the aunt for his benefit is another instance to highlight that the younger ones are not to be underestimated. He lavishly starts toying with aunt’s words when the aunt is stuck in the rainwater tank. He uses the very words of aunt to punish her. He uses his nature as a stubborn child to be safe from aunt’s possible punishments on the act. Aunt being defeated at the end suggests that the battle between the generations can have unexpected twists.

 

However, the main reason for the conflict between two generations in the story Lumber Room is that the negative responses of the world of adults when dealing with the young stubborn children. The way to end this up is to understand the nature of children and cater their psychological needs with care. 

This post was written as a model response to the webinar we had recently. Hope this would be useful for you to analyze the main characters in the story. Share the post if you find this useful to others. 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you for this 🥺❤️

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