A Young Turkish Catastrophe by Saki (H.H. Munro)
In A Young Turkish Catastrophe by Saki we have the theme of governance, inequality, power, self-importance, loyalty, control and freedom. Taken from his The Complete Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and from the beginning of the story the reader realises that Saki may be exploring the theme of governance. At first the Vizier is against the idea of women having the right to vote. Something that may be important as the Vizier’s logic is extremely bias with the reader feeling as though the Vizier does not consider women to be the equal of men due to their inability to read or write. Which may leave some readers to suspect that many women who can’t read and write have in fact not been given access to education. Their role in society may have been to be homemakers. Rather than women being heard or seen there domain appears to be in the home and in the home they are answerable to their husbands. Which would further suggest that a state of inequality may exist between both men and women. It is as though women are powerless to change their environment. Something that is not helped by the fact that they do not have the right to vote.
However the Minister does manage to persuade the Vizier to allow women to vote. Though things do not go as expected for the candidate from the Young Turkish Party. Though the candidate is unnamed he appears to be so confident that he will win the election that he is preparing his acceptance speech. This may be important as Saki may be highlighting the fact that the candidate is allowing his ego to run wild. That the candidate is beginning to believe in his own self-importance. It is also interesting that though women are allowed to vote. They do not appear to be allowed to run for political office. Something that would further play on the theme of inequality. It is one thing for the Vizier to allow women to vote. However he does not appear to be as keen to allow women to run for political office. This may be a step too far for the Vizier who if anything is being pushed to allow women to vote by the more progressive Minister. If anything it would seem that the Vizier is being controlled by the Minister when it comes to the matter of women voting.
Something which is somewhat ironic as the Vizier considers women to be subservient to him yet the Minister who is also subservient to the Vizier is actually advising the Vizier on the direction he should take. The whole idea on allowing women to vote is completely that of the more progressive Minister. Who is making his appraisal based on what is happening in the west. Although as the story progresses it becomes clear to the reader that what is happening in Turkey is far different to what is happening in the west. Something that the candidate for the Young Turkish Party learns very quickly. When his opponent Ali the Blest arrives at the polling station with his six hundred wives which the candidate is fully aware will all vote for their husband. Ali the Blest. It is as though the Young Turkish Party candidate knows that he has no chance of winning and that the Minister’s good intentions towards the Young Turkish Party will not bear fruition due to the fact that it appears as though neither man understands the culture that they work and live in.
Though Ali the Blest has done nothing wrong but take advantage of the circumstances he finds himself in. His victory is a surprise to the Young Turkish Party candidate who has only one wife and lives his live based on western values. It is possible that Saki is suggesting that both western and eastern cultures and values are different and if anything western values may not necessarily be the values that others like Ali the Blest wish to adhere to. Ali would much prefer to follow tradition which allows him to have countless wives. All of whom can vote for Ali. The only downside might be that Ali’s wives have most likely not freely chosen to vote for Ali but are doing so out of a sense of loyalty to him. It is also possible that Ali is dictating to his wives who they should vote for and if this is the case than it would suggest that Ali is controlling each of his wives. Which may be ironic as the Minister persuaded the Vizier to allow women to be freely able to vote. Yet it is doubtful that Ali’s wives had the freedom of choice when it came to voting. If anything they most likely did as Ali told them to do. The Vizier might have agreed to allow women to vote but the freedom to choose the candidate to vote for appears to rest with the wives husbands. In reality no progress has been made and women remain subservient to men.