Esmé by Saki (H.H. Munro)
In Esmé by Saki we have the theme of connection, pleasure, class, arrogance, selfishness, control and morality. Taken from his The Complete Short Stories collection the story is a frame narrative and after reading the story the reader realises that Saki may be exploring the theme of arrogance. At no stage in the story do the Baroness or Constance attempt to grapple the young gypsy child from Esmé’s mouth. It is as though the child’s life is not valuable or at least may not be considered to be an equal to either the Baroness or Constance. This may be important as it suggests that not only is the Baroness (and Constance) detached from the realities of life but they may also be exceptionally arrogant considering themselves better than others. It is also interesting that neither woman at any stage of the story gets off their horses. Symbolically Saki may be using the horses to suggest that both women consider themselves to be above others. It is also astonishing at how relaxed both the Baroness and Constance are when they see Esmé with the child. Something that would leave the reader again feeling as though the child’s life was worth nothing in the eyes of both women.
In fact neither the Baroness nor Constance feel anything for the young gypsy child. Something that may have been commonplace among those of the upper classes. The most important thing to the Baroness is the fact that she feels as though she has a new (though dangerous) pet. She also has no control over Esmé though this does not appear to bother the Baroness. If anything there is a sense that the Baroness is able to connect with Esmé with both appearing to hunt for pleasure and having a total disregard as to what they may be hunting for. Something that may be understandable for Esmé but is surprising when it comes to the Baroness. However it is possible that Saki is suggesting that the Baroness due to her aloofness considers everything to be fair game even a young gypsy child. At no stage in the story does the Baroness show any signs of being in shock with Esmé’s actions. If anything the Baroness places no value on the life of the young gypsy child and the reader suspects she may do the same for those who are of a lesser class than herself.
The young gypsy child is abandoned in bushes yet the Baroness insists on the motorist burying Esmé when Esmé is killed. If anything the Baroness is affording Esmé more respect than the young gypsy child. The reader aware that the Baroness places more value on Esmé’s life than on the young gypsy child’s. The fact that the Baroness is not alone throughout the story may also be important as Saki may be suggesting that Constance or the upper classes in general are complicit in what has happened to the young gypsy child. If anything the reader is left stunned at the Baroness’ attitude which may be the point that Saki is attempting to make. He may be highlighting just how different those of the upper classes were to others of a lower class. What might be considered important to some (the young gypsy child) is of no importance to the Baroness. The Baroness doesn’t lack empathy as can be noticed when she tells the motorist to bury Esmé however her empathy is misdirected. The real victim in the story is the young gypsy child who based solely on their class has been disregarded by the Baroness.
The end of the story is also interesting particularly the fact that the Baroness and Constance fall out over the diamond brooch. It is as though both women remain selfish and wish to profit on the events that occurred while they were hunting. Forgotten is the fact that a child has been killed and Constance is seeking her share of the sale of the brooch. If anything money seems to be more important to both women than the life of the young gypsy child. The fact that the Baroness says that nobody missed the child is also significant as she is again demeaning the child’s life. For the Baroness the child is worth the same amount that she received from the sale of the brooch. The reader aware that both the Baroness and Constance lack any sort of compassion for the child. The most important thing for the Baroness is that she has received a gift which she can sell. At all stages of the story the Baroness has thought of nobody but herself. She makes a connection with Esmé yet she is not able to make a connection with another human being. The Baroness attempted to control Esmé and was unsuccessful. However she made no effort to stop Esmé from killing the young gypsy child simply because she did not value the child’s life. The young gypsy child like others in the Baroness’ life are beneath the Baroness.