Monro Saki is one of the short stories from Beasts and Super-Beasts, published , though it was first published in a newspaper. He died two years later in the war. Significantly for this short story, Saki was gay. A lumber-room is a room in an upper-class English house where items are stored when not in use. Jagborough is a fictional seaside resort but has a likely-sounding English name. This is his inner-world, his imagination, his subconscious.
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Monro Saki is one of the short stories from Beasts and Super-Beasts, published , though it was first published in a newspaper. He died two years later in the war. Significantly for this short story, Saki was gay. A lumber-room is a room in an upper-class English house where items are stored when not in use. Jagborough is a fictional seaside resort but has a likely-sounding English name.
This is his inner-world, his imagination, his subconscious. A child goes on an adventure, has fun without adult supervision, then returns to the safe but restrictive adult world by the end of the story.
We can deduce this because the girl-cousin hurts herself getting into the car and cries loudly. When supervised and arranged by adults, especially in the spirit of punishment for the ostracised, carnivalesque adventures are nothing of the sort. Sure enough, we learn the other children had a terrible time.
This mini story describes why Nicholas is in disgrace. Hitchcock might have called the frog in the bread-and-milk a McGuffin — we never hear about the frog again, but it kicks the real story off. This initial micro-story lets Nicholas have his Anagnorisis upfront. Readers love tricksters. We identify with tricksters immediately. This is true for almost all children in stories, because their freedom is severely limited. Not only that, Nicholas is a misunderstood child. We know from this particular episode of his life story that he wants to look at a narrative tapestry while the adult assumes he wants to get into the gooseberries, but this must only scratch the surface of all the ways in which he is misunderstood.
Nicholas is an aesthete rather than an athlete — the two main types of man as decided in the 19th century. He likes to walk around and look at nice things, inhaling their scent, considering the stories behind them. Nicholas might therefore be considered a proxy for a gay adult man living in the Edwardian era. When he does go there, he hurts no one.
And the things that are in there are off-limits for no good reason. The aunt-by-assertion was one of those people who think that things spoil by use and consign them to dust and damp by way of preserving them. This is not a story of someone who is acting in the world, where there is danger, but someone who is content to watch on, which is bearable so long as he understands his own inner self. PLAN Nicholas understands the concepts of reverse psychology and diversion.
He will reinforce the aunts beliefs about him by making a show of crawling into the gooseberry garden. While the aunt is busy hunting him down in the overgrown garden he will use the key to get into the lumber-room. The big reveal for the reader is that Nicholas is not interested in gooseberries, but in the more adult, less understandable pleasures of the treasures in the lumber-room. Before that he observes a tapestry meant as a fire screen.
Saki describes it for the reader. When writers describe a painting or photo within a story this is known as ekphrasis , which was a popular Greek pastime. What does Nicholas understand by looking at the hunters and the stag?
A man, dressed in the hunting costume of some remote period, had just transfixed a stag with an arrow; it could not have been a difficult shot because the stag was only one or two paces away from him; in the thickly-growing vegetation that the picture suggested it would not have been difficult to creep up to a feeding stag, and the two spotted dogs that were springing forward to join in the chase had evidently been trained to keep to heel till the arrow was discharged.
That part of the picture was simple, if interesting, but did the huntsman see, what Nicholas saw, that four galloping wolves were coming in his direction through the wood?
There might be more than four of them hidden behind the trees, and in any case would the man and his dogs be able to cope with the four wolves if they made an attack?
The man had only two arrows left in his quiver, and he might miss with one or both of them; all one knew about his skill in shooting was that he could hit a large stag at a ridiculously short range. 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.
But when they do look, it is very dangerous for the stag. It is pleasurable in this forbidden room but it is also dangerous. Perhaps danger is part of the pleasure itself. He comes up with a way the story on the tapestry could end that could be all right. Will Eaves, on the Neuromantics podcast says this crops up a lot in Greek myth: How can these sexually irresponsible labile figures have an effect in the world that ends up restoring balance?
A lot of the macabre stories have roots in green man figures and whatnot. So she is obliged to believe that perhaps he was naive enough to think that she had been swapped out by some evil witch. The gay man sort of gets away with entering the metaphorical lumber-room because people simply assume he wants something else entirely. Others know something is up. In that way, the adult gay man is similar to a child — children know things, but are often ill-equipped with language to describe these things.
In the Lumber Room With Saki
Taken from his The Complete Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Saki may be exploring the world of a child versus that of an adult. Nicholas unlike his Aunt has a wonderful imagination something that is noticeable while he is in the lumber-room. The Aunt of the other hand is performing menial tasks in the gooseberry garden. She is deliberately punishing him because she feels as though he was lying about there being a frog in his breakfast.
A Summary and Analysis of Saki’s ‘The Lumber-Room’
Nicholas was not to be of the party; he was in disgrace. Only that morning he had refused to eat his wholesome bread-and-milk on the seemingly frivolous ground that there was a frog in it. Older and wiser and better people had told him that there could not possibly be a frog in his bread-and-milk and that he was not to talk nonsense; he continued, nevertheless, to talk what seemed the veriest nonsense, and described with much detail the coloration and markings of the alleged frog. The sin of taking a frog from the garden and putting it into a bowl of wholesome bread-and-milk was enlarged on at great length, but the fact that stood out clearest in the whole affair, as it presented itself to the mind of Nicholas, was that the older, wiser, and better people had been proved to be profoundly in error in matters about which they had expressed the utmost assurance. So his boy-cousin and girl-cousin and his quite uninteresting younger brother were to be taken to Jagborough sands that afternoon and he was to stay at home. It was her habit, whenever one of the children fell from grace, to improvise something of a festival nature from which the offender would be rigorously debarred; if all the children sinned collectively they were suddenly informed of a circus in a neighbouring town, a circus of unrivalled merit and uncounted elephants, to which, but for their depravity, ther would have been taken that very day.
The Lumber-Room by Saki