On Approval by Saki (H.H. Munro)
In On Approval by Saki we have the theme of struggle, change, jealousy and loneliness. 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 struggle. Knopfschrank struggles to sell any of his paintings or sketches. It is as though others do not appreciate his artistic eye and only purchase his sketches when they believe others have done so. When the reality is Knopfschrank’s new found wealth is a gift from his parents. This may be important as Saki may be highlighting how fickle the other artists in the story may be. Jumping at the opportunity to buy Knopfschrank’s work when it is perceived he is a success. When the truth and reality is that nothing has changed for Knopfschrank. He remains a poor artist with debts that he cannot pay till his parents intervene. The fact that Knopfschrank is so quiet and does not mix with others might also be important as he may see himself above others when it comes to his mastery of the arts. His paintings and sketches after all are unusual.
It is also possible that the other painters in the restaurant do not wish to mix with Knopfschrank as they consider him to be unusual and might actually be jealous of his talents. Something that is noticeable when they begin to buy some of Knopfschrank’s work. If anything the environment in which the artists live is most likely full of competition with each artist vying to sell their work and considering it better than the art of the other artists. Which may leave some readers to suggest that each artist in the restaurant is self-absorbed with his or her own work. Believing it to be better than others. It is for this reason that some artists might not see Knopfschrank as a threat due to the nature of his paintings and sketches. Though they are still willing to buy his work when they believe he has become popular. If anything Saki may be highlighting how shallow the artists in the restaurant are. Thinking only of themselves and no one else.
Knopfschrank also cuts a lonely figure spending most of his time sitting on his own in the restaurant. Painting too is a lonely act and it may be a case that Knopfschrank has no real friends only those who sit in the restaurant with him. Also Knopfschrank is away from home and it may not be easy for him to make friends considering the characteristics of the other artists in the restaurant. Everyone appears to be out for number one. To try and make a sale and find fame in the process. While Knopfschrank’s art is not the type of art that will make him wealthy or famous. He appears to paint and sketch for the love of it often starving himself in order to paint and sketch. Something that is clearer to the reader by Knopfschrank’s many absences from the restaurant and when he is there his dietary requirements become less and less inexpensive. The fact that everybody begins buying Knopfschrank’s work on discovery that he is eating an expensive meal really sums up the character of the other diners (or artists) in the restaurant. They are attempting to piggy back on Knopfschrank’s perceived success.
If anything the story is an insight into human nature. When things go well for one person, as they do for Knopfschrank, others wish to be involved believing that they too will be successful. Though they have made no contribution to Knopfschrank’s success. If anything Knopfschrank is admitting defeat and returning home to his parents where he very may well live a different type of life and forgo painting and sketching. He has tried his best and failed yet others through their own misconceptions do not view Knopfschrank as a failure. They are too blinded by their own greed to realise what is happening. Knopfschrank is also only too willing to take advantage of the perception of others and sell his paintings and sketches for a good price. And why shouldn’t he. He has been alienated by his peers who frown upon him and his art. Though in one sweeping moment Knopfschrank’s art has gained popularity through his actions of buying an expensive meal in the restaurant. There is really only one winner in the story and that is Knopfschrank. Though he may have to return home and change his occupation, no longer paining or sketching, he has managed to sell at a high price the art he has already drawn. Something that cannot be said for his fellow artists in the restaurant.