The Dreamer by Saki (H.H. Munro)
In The Dreamer by Saki we have the theme of class, materialism, gender, control and identity. 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 realizes that Saki may be exploring the theme of class. Adela does not like shopping, possibly because it involves her mixing with people of a lower class, but she makes an exception when it comes to finding a bargain. It is as though she likes the challenge of finding something cheap and it also suggests that she may like getting the better of people. It is also interesting that Saki addresses Adela as Mrs Chemping for large parts of the story as this makes her different to others. She is given a title and the reader is left to wonder if this is how Adela likes to be addressed, as though she is someone important. She is her husband’s wife and the reader assumes that Adela’s husband may indeed be an important man.
This leaves the reader thinking that perhaps Saki is looking at the role of women in society. They may generally, particularly women of class, not be employed or working. In reality they may be women of leisure and Adela appears to enjoy her pursuits throughout the story. Though the story title is focused on Cyprian the main focus of the story should not be taken away from Adela. She is the engine that runs and drives the story. It is through her actions that the pace of the story is really developed. It is only in the latter stages that Cyprian really develops. Which may be the point that Saki is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that because Cyprian is still a teenager, a boy at that. This might be the only age group that Adela is able to control. However as can be seen. Cyprian develops a new identity when he is mistaken for a sales assistant.
There may be some symbolism in the story which might be important. The fact that Cyprian is not wearing a hat could suggest that he is changing and taking control of his life. Meaning that Adela does not necessarily have as much of a reign on him. He is becoming independent of others which may not be to Adela’s liking. The fact he is mistaken for a sales assistant because he is not wearing a hat also suggests that Cyprian is not only in control of his life but likes the position he finds himself in. After all who would not like a woman to give them money for nothing? Though some critics might suggest that Cyprian is being dishonest others might think he is simply taking advantage of the situation he finds himself in. Entrepreneurial if you like. As mentioned Adela’s seeking of a bargain suggests she likes to keep herself above others. To consider herself as special, as she thinks her class should dictate.
The end of the story is interesting because Adela does not stop Cyprian’s sales assistant adventures. It is as though she knows she is losing him to others and seeing that Cyprian is able to make his own way in life. After all Cyprian is the only person that Adela feels she will be able to control on her shopping trip. Even there she fails. Which may be Saki’s point. He may be suggesting that Adela is to live her life controlled by others like her husband and that the role of women in society, regardless of class, is limited. They are to be seen and not heard. It is Cyprian’s voice that is heard at the end of the story and he is playing a role he is very comfortable with. While Adela is left alone to her own devices and is not as successful as Cyprian in her actions.