Louis by Saki (H.H. Munro)
In Louis by Saki we have the theme of conflict, selfishness, cunning, control and independence. 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 conflict. Strudwarden is arguing with Lena over where they should go on holidays. Strudwarden wants to go to Vienna while Lena wishes to return to Brighton. So defiant is Lena that she tells Strudwarden that he can travel to Vienna on his own. She will not leave Louis behind. This may be important as Lena is highly defensive of Louis and she would rather disagree with her husband than to have Louis suffer on a trip to Vienna. If anything some readers might suggest that Lena might have more affection for Louis than she does for Strudwarden or at least this is how it appears in the story. It is also interesting that Lena does not allow others to touch Louis (with the exception of the maid). At all times in the story Lena is in control of Louis. He is not Strudwarden’s dog he is Lena’s dog. Something that is very clear to Strudwarden.
Elsie’s character is also interesting as she considers it preposterous that Lena is allowing Louis to take precedence over Strudwarden. To her this just seems unnatural. Though to those who are dog owners it may seem to be very normal. A pet can easily become a part of a family with rights that might match the other members of the family. It is also through Elsie’s cunning that both Elsie and Strudwarden discuss on the best possible way to kill Louis. This may be important as at no stage in the story are Elsie or Strudwarden taking into consideration how Lena might feel when she discovers that Louis has died. He does after all appear to be Lena’s best friend. Elsie may also not like Lena due to fact that she will not agree with Strudwarden when it comes to holidaying in Vienna. In many ways Lena is standing on her own two feet and ignoring the patriarchal instruction she has been given by her husband. This may be important as it suggests that Lena is able to stand on her own two feet. Something that is clearly noticeable to the reader by Lena’s refusal to go Vienna. If anything Lena is independent. She is able to make up her own mind when Strudwarden begins to dictate to her.
Which may be the point that Saki is attempting to make. At the time the story was written many women did not have a choice in their marriage and it was unheard of for a woman to go against the instruction of her husband. Throughout the story Lena shows an independent and determined streak. She knows who she is as a woman and more importantly she knows what she wants. A trip to Vienna is not one of the things she wants. Something that results in Strudwarden becoming cunning and killing Louis in order to force Lena to go to Vienna with him. If anything Strudwarden has acted selfishly. Thinking of nobody else but his trip to Vienna. The fact that Elsie acts as an accomplice into Louis’s death could also be important as she too might be attempting to help Strudwarden to exert his control over Lena. It is also possible that Elsie does not like how Strudwarden is treating by Lena. If anything Elsie can see that Lena is in control of the marriage and not Strudwarden. Hence the drastic actions taken by both Strudwarden and Elsie when it comes to Louis.
The end of the story is also interesting particularly Lena’s reaction to Louis’s death. Saki describes Lena’s attempts at laughter as being an ‘unmistakable failure.’ Similarly Lena does not weep the loss of Louis as one would expect a pet owner to when a pet has died. Lena is showing no real emotion or at least none that is easy for the reader to obtain a meaning from. Though it is also possible that Lena on listening to Strudwarden talking about how she has got to go to Vienna. Lena might be in complete shock. In whereby she had the excuse of having to look after Louis. This is no longer the case. If anything Strudwarden by his actions of killing Louis has helped Strudwarden regain control over Lena. This might be why Lena is so stunned when Strudwarden tells her that Louis is dead. Any freedom that Lena might have had (with Louis) is lost forever and she appears to be now at the beck and call of Strudwarden. Whereas Lena might have been using Louis as a crutch to define your environment. Strudwarden has taken this crutch away. In a possible battle of wills between the sexes and through cunning Strudwarden has gotten his own way and there is very little that Lena can do.