Laura by Saki

Laura - Saki

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.

Cite Post
McManus, Dermot. "Laura by Saki." The Sitting Bee. The Sitting Bee, 7 Jun. 2018. Web.

5 comments

  • The writer has gotten one major point wrong. Amanda is married to Egbert, not Laura. It is not clear how Laura is connected to the household, but she may be Egbert’s sister or simply Amanda’s friend. And later in the review, the name Laura is changed to Louise.

    I also take exception to the repeated comments that a person cannot choose what animal to come back as. Who really knows this? And, anyway, I don’t think Saki cared one way or the other; the concept was useful in providing the perfect vehicle for revenge as well as backing up Laura’s earlier statement about not being such a good person herself. The author also unilaterally pronounces Amanda unhinged by her friend’s death rather than simply suspending disbelief and going with the fascinating flow of H H Munro’s vivid imagination.

    However critical I sound, I appreciate that any reviewer has a right to his personal opinion even though I may not agree with it. Simple facts should be carefully attended to however.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks for the comment Miranda. I went as far as reading the story again and would agree I have made rather silly mistakes. Mistakes that I should have seen before I hit the publish button. I will need to rewrite the review as it is as you suggest factually wrong. Hopefully I will not err as I have done on my second tackling of the story.

  • Dermot,

    As you may have guessed I am an English professor. Or, more precisely was, as I am now retired which probably makes me even more of a stick in the mud. I never liked to be too critical of my students’ work for fear of disincentivising them, but you are made of stronger stuff, I see.

    I think what you are doing on this blog is wonderful. I love that you are bringing worthy pieces of literature to new audiences and keeping the debate alive.

    I will continue reading your thoughtful commentary and wish you all the best in your endeavors.

    • Dermot (Post Author)

      Thanks Miranda. I like it when a visitor to the blog engages with me and highlights my mistakes or challenges my views. I find that it helps me understand a story better. Though I should have seen that Laura was never married to Egbert. I clearly rushed my reading of the story without fully concentrating on the task at hand.

      • No apologies necessary, Dermot. Despite what we may aspire to, we all are only human. I agree with you that open dialogue keeps us fresher and able to see different perspectives. Excelcior!

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