Laura by Saki (H.H. Munro)
In Laura by Saki we have the theme of freedom, reincarnation, conformity, acceptance, revenge, mortality and connection. 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 freedom. Laura is a naturally free spirit something that is noticeable by the fact that she likes to make her own rules about how she should live her life. However one noticeable constant in Laura’s life is the fact that she likes to seek revenge on those who have injured her personally. Something that is noticeable when it comes to Egbert. She will not allow him to get the better of her. Which may be important as there is a sense that Laura is challenging the status quo that may have existed at the time the story was written between men and women. To Laura her actions are games to irritate Egbert but to Egbert they are a little more personal and malicious. Though it is very much left to the reader to decide upon which character they support. Many might side with Egbert and as such may be supporting conformity while others who side with Laura may forgive her for her actions and realise that she is indeed a free spirit.
There is also no mistaking that Laura is dying and that she appears to accept the fact that she is dying. Her only concern is as to what type of animal she will be reincarnated into. Her preference is to become an otter and after she has been killed to become a Nubian boy. Two things that in Amanda’s eyes come true and as such Amanda does try and save the otter from being killed. If it is a case that Laura has been reincarnated as an otter. The havoc she wreaks may be justifiable in her eyes for how Egbert may have treated her throughout their engagement. Regardless of this Amanda is protective of the otter and the reader is left assuming that she will also be protective on the Nubian boy. For Amanda it is just too coincidental what is happening. Everything that Laura said she would do has come to fruition. Something that in reality unnerves Amanda to a point in whereby she feels physically ill. Though at the same time feels a strong allegiance to her friend rather than to Egbert.
How Egbert feels about Laura is also noticeable by his actions after Laura’s death. At times he is more preoccupied with the family of speckled Sussex than he is with Laura’s departure. For Egbert things must carry on as normal. Something that may leave some readers to suspect that Egbert may be a cold and selfish man. His main priority is not to grieve Laura but to kill the otter (which Amanda assumes is Laura). All of this becomes too much for Amanda and she has to leave England and take some rest in Cairo. Something that is understandable considering how strongly Amanda feels about what is happening. For her own sanity Amanda also knows that she cannot confront Egbert and tell him that the otter is in fact Amanda. It would just sound ludicrous to Egbert and possibly to others. If anything the close connection that Amanda and Laura had while Laura was alive remains intact. There is no way of Amanda letting the relationship go due to the conversations that she has had with Laura. Though some critics might scorn the idea of reincarnation the point that Saki may be attempting to make is that Amanda due to close friendship with Laura cannot let go of Laura’s words.
The end of the story is also interesting as Amanda is in total shock (seriously ill) and considering that she believes that the Nubian boy is the second reincarnation of Laura. It is as though everything Laura has said to Amanda has come true. At least in Amanda’s eyes and Laura remains true to character and seeks to annoy Egbert. Something which may leave many readers to suggest that there is indeed a life after one dies. That reincarnation is a possibility. Though some critics may dispute this. However what has occurred is very real to Amanda. Any beliefs she may have had to the contrary when it came to the matter of reincarnation are sure to have been replaced with a strong belief that one can relive their life in a different form. Be it as an animal or as the opposite sex. Which may be the point that Saki is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that an individual should never give up on life and any form it may take. Just as Laura has not given up on bringing havoc into Egbert’s life.