Gabriel-Ernest by Saki (H.H. Munro)
In Gabriel-Ernest by Saki we have the theme of suspicion, charity, paranoia, fear, control, trust and acceptance. 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 theme of suspicion. Van Cheele mistrusts Gabriel-Ernest in light of the fact that he cannot really work him out. He has suspicions as to what Gabriel-Ernest’s motives may be and is in total surprise when Gabriel arrives to his home and makes himself comfortable. However it is noticeable that Van Cheele’s aunt is welcoming of Gabriel-Ernest viewing him as a poor boy who may need charity. A charity she herself is able to offer with great willingness. Something that is noticeable when she suggests that Gabriel-Ernest should play with some of the smaller children. It is also possible that Van Cheele is paranoid when it comes to Gabriel-Ernest as he does actually believe that Gabriel-Ernest has the capacity to turn into a werewolf. Something that is simply not possibly but may have been believed at the time the story was written.
There is also a sense that Van Cheele is afraid of Gabriel-Ernest which may be due to the fact that he knows that he has no control over him. Gabriel-Ernest appears to be a free-spirit who is answerable to nobody. Something that Saki might be suggesting every youth should be. To live their lives as free as possible before they are hindered by adulthood. The fact that Gabriel-Ernest tells Van Cheele that he likes to eat child-flesh on the surface may be considered threatening. However the reality is that Gabriel-Ernest most likely was attempting to shock Van Cheele. Whose mind raced to the incident of the child dying two months previously and having never been found. The fact that Saki does not really give the reader a backdrop to the story and just the facts as they play out leaves it difficult for the reader to really believe that Gabriel-Ernest is a werewolf. If anything he is a young travelling child who is down on his luck and has had to fend for himself in the woods. Gabriel-Ernest is isolated from the world just as Van Cheele is isolated from the realities of what has happened when he returns from Cunningham’s. His mind is in overdrive and rather than one and one equaling two. Van Cheele has one and one equaling three when there is no proof that Gabriel-Ernest has hurt another human being except for the assumptions that Van Cheele is making.
Which may be the point that Saki is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that an individual’s assumptions may not always be correct. Van Cheele has no information to back up how he thinks about Gabriel-Ernest. If anything everything that Van Cheele thinks about in the story (apart from his outlook on nature) is formulated in his mind. Which may not necessarily be trustworthy. He does after all have doubts when it comes to Gabriel-Ernest that he asks Cunningham to alleviate. Something that Cunningham fails to do and as such Van Cheele immediately thinks about sending a telegram to his aunt telling her that Gabriel-Ernest is a werewolf. Though he does think better of this as he knows it might frighten his aunt. It is at this stage that panic sets in for Van Cheele and he immediately returns home. Though this action is admirable the reality is that it is not in fact needed. In Van Cheele’s eyes this aunt and the children are at risk from Gabriel-Ernest because Van Cheele is sure that Gabriel-Ernest is a werewolf.
The end of the story is interesting as it would appear to some that Gabrielle-Ernest drowned while trying to help another young boy. However this is not something that Van Cheele is prepared to accept. Even with the passing of time Van Cheele remains convinced that Gabriel-Ernest was a werewolf. If is for this reason that he refuses to donate any money towards a memorial for Gabriel Ernest. Which may be important as Gabriel-Ernest in all likelihood has been forgotten about by his original family and now Van Cheele is turning his back on him too. However it is interesting that all the other villagers can see the good qualities in Gabriel-Ernest. Hence the memorial. It is only Van Cheele who continues to remain suspicious. Though he has no real basis for his suspicion. He is basing his suspicion on superstition and the fact that werewolves may exist. Information he has retrieved from the usually quiet Cunningham. At all stages of the story Van Cheele has chosen to see the bad in Gabriel-Ernest rather than realising that he simply may be a young boy who has had the misfortune of losing his family and who is left to fend for himself to the best of his abilities.