Sredni Vashtar by Saki (H.H. Munro)
In Sredni Vashtar by Saki we have the theme of escape, acceptance, control, revenge, selfishness, independence and freedom. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Saki may be exploring the theme of escape. Conradin spends as much time as he can in the tool shed. His reason being to simply stay away from his cousin Mrs De Ropp. What is important about the shed is that Conradin is able to create a world for himself in whereby he can wreak revenge on Mrs De Ropp. The reader aware of the mutual dislike that both Conradin and Mrs De Ropp have for one another. Though Saki does not provide the reader with any information as to why Mrs De Ropp dislikes Conradin it may be a case that she views him as an unnecessary burden. Something that is noticeable by her immediate acceptance of the fact that Conradin may only have five years left to live. Rather than finding a cure that might help Conradin. Mrs De Ropp appears to immediately accept what the doctor has told her. This may be important as it is possible that Saki is suggesting that Mrs De Ropp not only considers Conradin a burden but she may also be relieved that she will no longer have to look after him.
Conradin’s dislike for Mrs De Ropp is easier to work out. He is aware that Mrs De Ropp doesn’t like him so it is easy for him to dislike her back. At no stage in the story does the reader get any sense that either Conradin or Mrs De Ropp feel guilty about disliking each other. If anything the arrangement between Conradin and Mrs De Ropp appears to be a complete inconvenience to both parties. It also seems to be a case that Mrs De Ropp controls Conradin as much as she can. By getting rid of the hen Mrs De Ropp is taking away an avenue of escape for Conradin. Also by giving him toast after she has gotten rid of the hen the reader senses that Mrs De Ropp is attempting to appease Conradin. Though at the same time the reader is aware that Mrs De Ropp dislikes having toast made. The fact that Conradin doesn’t eat the toast may also be important as it symbolically suggests he is independent of Mrs De Ropp. He is not going to allow her actions upset him.
Throughout the story there is also a sense that Mrs De Ropp acts selfishly. Firstly when she accepts the doctor’s diagnosis without questioning it and secondly when she gets rid of the hen. Though both events are very different in manner the one thing that they do have in common is the fact that Mrs De Ropp is thinking only of herself and nobody else. If anything it becomes clear to the reader that Mrs De Ropp is not suited to look after Conradin. At all stages of the story she appears to put herself before Conradin. Forgetting that she is his guardian and should have his interests at heart. It is also understandable as to why Conradin would create an alternative world in the tool shed. Ironically for a boy who has been told that he only has five years left to live. Conradin stands a better chance of survival staying as far away from Mrs De Ropp as possible. Both Conradin through his praying to Sredni Vashtar and Mrs De Ropp by her lack of care for Conradin are in reality at war with one another.
The end of the story is also interesting as Conradin gets the revenge he was seeking. It is as though Conradin has freed himself. No longer does he have to continue playing Mrs De Ropp’s game. Something that is noticeable by the fact that when Conradin realises that Sredni Vashtar has killed Mrs De Ropp he makes himself another piece of toast. A fact that the reader is aware would have been met with disapproval by Mrs De Ropp should she have still been alive. It is also interesting that the maid is afraid to tell Conradin that Mrs De Ropp is dead as this suggests that she was not aware of the relationship that Conradin had with Mrs De Ropp. Their relationship wasn’t transparent to others. Similarly the doctor also appears to be unaware of the relationship both Conradin and Mrs De Ropp had with one another. It is as though the battle between Conradin and Mrs De Ropp was a private one. Which is understandable when it comes to Mrs De Ropp’s character. She cannot allow society to see that she dislikes Conradin. Conradin on the other hand as a ten year old has shown great strength. He knows that Mrs De Ropp doesn’t like him but he also knows that he is only ten years old and people would have not taken him seriously should he have raised the matter of Mrs De Ropp disliking him and making his life difficult.