The Bag by Saki (H.H Munro)
In The Bag by Saki we have the theme of love, marriage, class and fear. 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 love. Mrs Hoopington has strong feelings for the Major. Feelings she does not hide from others. Though the Major seems to be oblivious to Mrs Hoopinton’s desire. He is more interested in shooting than anything else. Similarly Norah has a soft spot for Vladimir and worships the ground he walks on. Something that is noticeable when Mrs Hoopington criticizes Vladimir only for Norah to defend him. If anything, just as Mrs Hoopington wants to marry the Major, so too does Norah want a courtship with Vladimir?
However marriage is not something that either men have on their minds. The Major is more interested in dining than discussing the idea of marriage with Mrs Hoopington. While Vladimir is preoccupied with the polecat he has captured and shot. These actions may be significant as Saki could be suggesting the Mrs Hoopington and Norah live in a patriarchal society. A place in whereby women must not be heard unless spoken to directly. In reality women are treated no better than the animals that men kill. They too are like trophies. Something for the men to be proud of.
There may also be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The setting is an old country house, a well-to-do house. This suggests a degree of class among the owners of the castle. A class that is different to the class of the homes that surround the castle. The fact that Vladimir kills the polecat might have some hierarchical symbolism. Vladimir a young virile man is at the top of his game. Unlike the old Major. Whose best days are behind him? In some ways you could suggest that Vladimir acts as a foil character to the Major. He is everything that the Major wants to be. The fact the castle is so old suggests that it is in disrepair which may be Saki’s way of telling the reader that the old world is collapsing and a new world is beginning.
The end of the story is interesting as nobody wants to see Vladimir’s polecat. It is as though the passing of the old to the new is unacceptable to Mrs Hoopington (and the Major). While Norah herself doesn’t appear to fully understand the symbolism of Vladimir’s kill. She loves him but she wants him on her terms and not on his. Something that may not happen as the reader suspects Vladimir has many admirers who will accept him for what he is. If anything Norah is acting a little too innocent by holding back in her affections for Vladimir. Perhaps she is unsure of how he feels about her, or the times dictated that a woman should not make the first move in a courtship.