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Nicholas: victor or victim?

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Introduction

Nicholas: victor or victim? I have read Sredni Vashtar, The Lumber-Room and The Holy War and have noticed that they have many similarities. Religion is a theme in all three stories. In The Holy War the title itself has religious connotations, suggesting a conflict over a very important issue, and the hooting of owls is described as "Vespers". In Sredni Vashtar Mrs De Ropp's Christianity is contrasted with Conradin's fierce and impatient religion, while in The Lumber-Room the aunt exploits Christianity in an attempt to frighten the children into obedience. Saki does not deny life a spiritual dimension, but he does not seem to have doubts about the value of conventional Christianity. Nature often seems a more important force in his short stories. In The Holy War the garden and its animals represent nature. Thirza makes "improvements", introducing order, monotony and profit, and is appropriately, killed by a wild swan. In Sredni Vashtar, Conradin's only companions are a Houdan hen and a polecat-ferret. Nature also takes revenge in this story, Mrs De Ropp being killed by Sredni Vashtar. In The Lumber-Room, depictions of nature- an embroidered hunting scene on a fire-screen and a book about birds- are important elements in the story. ...read more.

Middle

Meanwhile Nicholas slips into the lumber-room. After a while the aunt begins to worry and she tries to trick Nicholas into revealing his whereabouts by claiming that she can see him. Nicholas knows that this is a desperate bluff and smiles victoriously to himself in the lumber-room. Deciding that Nicholas must have succeeded in entering the gooseberry garden, the aunt goes in search of him and falls into the rainwater tank. This is another stroke of luck for Nicholas and he capitalizes on it. By skillfully declining to rescue her, he leaves her trapped for thirty-five minutes. Events go from bad to worse for her. The other children return and she learns that the "special treat" was a disaster. In her haste to arrange the trip she forgot to check the tide times. The tide was at its highest so there was no sands to play on. Moreover, Bobby's tight boots put him in a foul mood so Nicholas's prediction was correct. The aunt's punishments have backfired and, ironically, the intended victim has enjoyed himself more that anyone. Nicholas's most important victory is getting into the lumber-room and having his imagination stimulated, although he may not be fully aware of its significance. ...read more.

Conclusion

These two events undermine the aunt's attempts to punish Nicholas and his spirits soar. His final opinion of the scene depicted on the tapestry reflects his happiness and growing sense of confidence in his own abilities. He is still the hunter and his aunt the stag, but now the arrow in the stag may correspond to the aunt in the rain-water tank. The dogs stand for Nicholas's conscious tactics, while the wolves represent his imagination and resourcefulness. The wolves will feast on the stag just as Nicholas's hungry imagination devoured the contents of the lumber-room. Saki often seems to underwrite his male characters by connecting them to nature and wild animals and his female characters are denied this bond. Thirza Yealmton is killed by a wild swan after spoiling her husband's paradise and Mrs De Ropp is killed by Conradin's polecat-ferret, so it is not too far-fetched to assume that the wolves will be Nicholas's 'allies' in his battle with his aunt. Nicholas has won the battle and proved himself other "wiser and better" than his hypocritical and vindictive aunt, but will he win the war? Her "frozen muteness" at tea that evening suggests that she will seek revenge in the near future. Jack Tarry 1 ...read more.

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