The Lumber-Room by Saki (H.H. Munro)
In The Lumber-Room by Saki we have the theme of imagination, ingenuity, trust, freedom, arrogance, escape and pride. Taken from his The Complete Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Saki may be exploring the world of a child versus that of an adult. Nicholas unlike his Aunt has a wonderful imagination something that is noticeable while he is in the lumber-room. The Aunt of the other hand is performing menial tasks in the gooseberry garden. Doing so in order to stop Nicholas from coming into the garden because she doesn’t trust Nicholas. If anything Nicholas’ Aunt’s measures are punitive. She is deliberately punishing him because she feels as though he was lying about there being a frog in his breakfast. This may be important as the incident with the frog results in the reader trusting Nicholas over his Aunt. There was after all a frog in Nicholas’ breakfast. The fact that he put the frog there is not significant. What is important is that Nicholas was being honest. Unlike his Aunt who the reader discovers later on in the story has lied about the jam. Which would lead the reader to again be supportive of Nicholas.
Nicholas’ ingenuity is also noticeable by the fact that he is aware of where the key to the lumber-room is. Also he has learnt how to use a key in preparation for his adventure in the lumber-room. What makes the lumber-room so important in the story is the fact that Nicholas through his vivid imagination is able to escape into a world that he himself believes in. Unlike an adult (or Nicholas’ Aunt) who might consider what Nicholas is doing to be nonsense or of no productive purpose. This may be important as Nicholas’ ability to escape from his environment allows for his mind to grow. He is not constrained as others would be. If anything Nicholas while in the lumber-room is free to allow himself to roam to any place that he wants to. There is also a sense that Nicholas feels proud about his ability to outsmart his Aunt (and the other adults) when it comes to the incident with the frog. For once Nicholas feels better than the adults who are in theory supposed to know everything. This too could be important as Saki may be suggesting that due to arrogance Nicholas’ Aunt (and others) suppress Nicholas’ voice.
It is also easy to sympathize with Nicholas when it comes to his relationship with his Aunt. She appears to do everything she can to scupper any plans that Nicholas might have to enjoy himself or to simply be a child. If anything there is a battle of wits between Nicholas and his Aunt. With neither giving the other an inch. Just as Nicholas’ Aunt doesn’t trust him. Nicholas too doesn’t trust his Aunt. Something that Nicholas is able to play on while his Aunt is in the rain-water tank. So ingenious is Nicholas that he tells his Aunt that she is the ‘Evil One’ that she had previously told Nicholas to ignore. Though this may sound ridiculous this may be the point that Saki is making. He may be suggesting that the battle of wits that exists between Nicholas and his Aunt will never be won by his Aunt due to Nicholas’ ability to turn things around to suit his needs. It is as though the Aunt is losing an argument with a child. Something that any adult would dread as it would result in their pride being wounded.
Which appears to be the case at the end of the story when Nicholas and his Aunt are at the table. The Aunt does not make any comment. She remains silent the reader aware that her pride has been wounded and that she has lost her battle with Nicholas. Nicholas on the other hand has moved on from the incident with the rain-water tank. His mind is firmly fixed on what he has seen in the lumber-room. His imagination is allowed to run wild again as he thinks about the huntsman and the wolves. The reader is also left with the feeling that Nicholas will further explore the lumber-room now that he knows it is a world of adventure. A small boy has outwitted an adult who ends up acting like a spoiled child. The Aunt’s silence says more than words can about how she is feeling. No longer is she dominant over Nicholas. Through his ingenuity Nicholas has managed to control his Aunt rather than it being her who controls him. Her original goal was to punish Nicholas. Instead she is the one who has been punished and to make matters worse she has been punished by a child. Someone she is unable to control due to Nicholas’ ability to see things as only a child would.