Fate by Saki (H.H. Munro)
In Fate by Saki we have the theme of aspirations, class, shame, deceit, appearance and fear. 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 aspirations. Rex is down on his luck and would prefer to have some consistency in his life. Perhaps a full time job might help him. However due to the class distinctions that appear in the story. Rex is not looking for any type of job in particular. He would prefer to work in a job that matches the class that Rex associates himself with. That being middle to upper class. Though financially this is a long way off for Rex. He is reliant on others to help him which may leave some readers to suggest that Rex is dependent on others. Whether he likes it or not. Though he does see his plans to wager exorbitant amounts that he does not have as a way to get himself out of his predicament. If anything Rex is shying away from working as he may see himself above others. Though again the reality is very different. Rex is living in a boarding house sharing facilities with others.
Symbolically the pigeon loft that is mentioned in the story may be important. Particularly the fact that Rex plans on cleaning the loft out in the next boarding house he lives in. It is as though Rex believes that by doing so he is also advancing himself in life and getting nearer to the class he so much covets. Though he is planning on doing so off the backs of others. Something that is noticeable by Rex’s favouring of the Major during the game of billiards. At no stage does Rex make an effort to honestly push himself into the situation that he most craves (money and class). It is lost on Rex that others through hard work have achieved what Rex is looking for. In many ways Rex could be considered to be lazy. Looking for the easiest option available to him. That being gambling even though he does not have the money to cover his losses.
However Rex does know how to take advantage of a situation when it presents itself to him. Which it does when it comes to setting fire to Teresa’s room. By doing so Rex knows that he will avoid the inevitable loss and shame that will come when the Major loses the billiard game. It is just as important to Rex that he is seen in a good light as it is that he does not lose all his money. By ‘rescuing’ Teresa and stopping the game Rex will portray himself as being a saviour rather than the deceitful character he really is. In reality Rex is a cheat and an unpleasant character though he does his very best to ensure that nobody sees this side of him. Appearances are important to Rex. He has an image that he would like to portray to others which is contrary to who he really is. A man who does not want to put the effort in to achieve his goals and would rather risk everything, both financially and appearance wise, in order to progress through the class system. Which may leave some readers to suggest that Rex has an over inflated opinion of himself. Considering himself to be better than others yet his record shows something different.
Saki may also be suggesting that there are some in life who are prepared to take risks which are unnecessary in order to improve their position in life. Forgoing their dignity and self-respect in order to make advancements through life. Though at the same time some critics might argue that there is nothing wrong with gambling with one’s position in life if the reward is as great as Rex feels it will be. However the reality may be that all Rex will gain is wealth and perhaps reconsideration by others of who he is. If anything Rex is feeding his own ego when he really does not need to. There are other ways for Rex to make a living but he is too egoistical to consider them. There is nothing wrong with Rex working in a job that he might consider to be beneath him. The only stumbling block is Rex himself and how he views the world. Which may be the point that Saki is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that for some the pull of being better than others can be so strong that an individual is prepared to risk everything in order to advance in life. In reality by gambling a person might be prepared to gamble with their life and their standing in society not only to improve themselves or their way of life but to also ensure that others look up to them or respect them.