Summary of The Lumber Room by Hector Hugh Munro

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Introduction:

The Lumber Room is a short story written by Hector Hugh Munro, also known as “Saki”. He is widely acclaimed for his short stories and is known for featuring children in his stories. Saki has a very interesting way of writing. He makes the story come alive and you feel like you get to know the characters when you read it. But even though it is interesting reading, he also has a point with “The Lumber Room” which I will get closer to throughout this essay. The main character of this short story is a young boy named Nicholas. He lives in something I would call an orphanage, because of the fact that he lives with a lot of other children and they have to call the adult woman who runs the place, “Aunt”. Nicholas does not like being there. He is one of those children who wants to do whatever he pleases. And he has no problems disobeying the adults.


Summary of The Lumber Room:

Nicholas, his younger brother, and their two cousins live with the cousins’ tyrannical aunt. Nicholas is “in disgrace” today because he refused to eat his bread-and-milk at breakfast. He told the aunt that there was a frog in his bowl of bread-and-milk, but she would not believe him. She eventually saw that there was indeed a frog in his bowl. She was not pleased, however, to find out that Nicholas had put it there himself.As punishment, the aunt decides to keep Nicholas home and send the other children to Jagborrough Cove to play on the sands. She thinks Nicholas will be sorry to miss the fun outing, but Nicholas does not mind staying home. He knows the children will not enjoy themselves because his girl-cousin scraped her knee on her way out and Bobby’s boots are too tight.After the children leave, the aunt tells Nicholas to stay out of the gooseberry garden as further punishment. Convinced that Nicholas will try to get into the garden just because he was told not to, she then positions herself in the front garden where she can watch the doors to the gooseberry garden. Nicholas makes a couple of attempts to sneak by his aunt just to confirm her suspicions. He then slips back into the house and steals the key to the lumber room. He has long wished to see what is inside the mysterious lumber room which is always kept locked.Inside the lumber room, Nicholas is delighted to find all sorts of fantastic treasures. His aunt keeps her home undecorated, and she stores away all the nice things so as not to spoil them. Nicholas is fascinated by a framed tapestry depicting a hunter with a stag he has shot with an arrow. He wonders if the huntsman sees the wolves coming towards him and whether the man and his dogs will be able to cope with them. He then goes on to examine other interesting objects in the room; decorative candlesticks, a duck-shaped teapot, a box full of brass figures, and a captivating book full of colorful illustrations of exotic birds.After some time, the aunt becomes suspicious of Nicholas’ long absence and starts searching for him. Nicholas hears her calling for him in the gooseberry garden pretending to see him hiding there. He then hears her shriek and cry out for help. He goes out of the lumber room, locks the door, and returns the key. He then saunters over to the front garden to answer the call. From the other side of the wall, the aunt tells Nicholas that she has fallen into the empty rain-water tank and cannot get out. She then tells him to bring a ladder to her. Nicholas reminds her that he is not allowed to enter the gooseberry garden. The aunt countermands the order, but Nicholas pretends he does not believe it is his aunt speaking to him. He says he thinks the Evil One is trying to tempt him to disobey his aunt. When she agrees to have strawberry jam for tea if he will bring the ladder, Nicholas declares it cannot be his aunt speaking because she told him previously that there was no jam left. Having sufficiently enjoyed himself, Nicholas walks away. The aunt is later found and rescued by the kitchen maid.In the evening, the tea is taken in silence. The children are unhappy after a miserable outing. The tide was high so there was no sand to play on, and Bobby was in a terrible temper because of his tight boots. The aunt maintains a “frozen muteness.” Nicholas is also silent, absorbed in his thoughts. He thinks that the huntsman may escape while the wolves are feasting on the stag.

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Characters in The Lumber Room:

Nicholas-Nicholas to be a resourceful and curious boy. He was playful and inventive but honest; there really was a frog in his bread-and-milk, and it was quite another matter, who put it there. Nicholas was willful because he achieved his goals by all available means. Nicholas was a resilient boy who could find pleasure even being punished. Being in disgrace, he was not driven to the sands at Jagborough like other children, but he got into the lumber-room, the summit of his desires. Nicholas had an active and vivid imagination, the passages about Nicholas in the lumber–room prove it. To him the piece of framed tapestry was a living-breathing story, exiting his imagination. Nicholas was very attentive and intelligent; he noticed that Bobbys boots were hurting him (though his aunt didn’t notice that important fact). He had a sense of humour; we can get actual proofs of it in the passage about his aunt when she was a prisoner in the rainwater tank. And again, Nicholas wasn’t disobedient. He was told not to enter the gooseberry garden and he didn’t enter. I suppose that it was a great pleasure for Nicholas to mock at the aunt and not to be mischievous.

Nicholas aunt– seems to be a woman of imperious temper, intolerant of childish pranks, cruel and unforgiving. She tried to extract children’s obedience through pressure and fear. This woman of few ideas, as the author called her, seems to be eager to make the children suffer instead of moulding their characters, activating their best features. Whenever one of the children fell from grace, she tried to improvise something of festival nature from which the offender would be debarred. The aunt was indifferent to the children’s needs; she never listened when they told her important things (for example, Bobby’s boots, which were too tight). She didn’t consider the children’s personalities and never explained her decision to them. So, in the accident with the rain-water tank it was a pleasure for Nicholas to mock at the aunt. After that event, she couldn’t punish Nicholas, but, of course, she didn’t forgive him her sufferings.

Themes in The Lumber Room:

Trying to highlight through this story is the bright open imaginative minds we have as children and how they warp into a gamut of closeted views, narrow perspectives, sadistic misgivings and biased opinions as we grow up . Also how, often the aforementioned qualities are wrongly looked upon to be the hallmark of ‘growing up’ and being ‘mature’ .

Solved Question:

1.Does the author present the personages directly or indirectly?

The author seems to draw the characters of the story with great insight avoiding the usage of straight descriptions. For example, instead of saying narrow-minded or dull about Nicholas aunt he uses the phrase the woman of few ideas.We learn about the personages character-sketches from their behaviour, their remarks, their feelings. We look at the lumber-room through the eyes of Nicholas and understand that he is a boy with an active, lively imagination. So, the author doesn’t present the characters directly, he allows us to understand the personages through their actions and their attitude to the story’s events.

2.Draw the character-sketches of Nicholas and the aunt.

Nicholas to be a resourceful and curious boy. He was playful and inventive but honest; there really was a frog in his bread-and-milk, and it was quite another matter, who put it there. Nicholas was willful because he achieved his goals by all available means. Nicholas was a resilient boy who could find pleasure even being punished. Being in disgrace, he was not driven to the sands at Jagborough like other children, but he got into the lumber-room, the summit of his desires. Nicholas had an active and vivid imagination, the passages about Nicholas in the lumber–room prove it. To him the piece of framed tapestry was a living-breathing story, exiting his imagination. Nicholas was very attentive and intelligent; he noticed that Bobby’s boots were hurting him (though his aunt didn’t notice that important fact). He had a sense of humour; we can get actual proofs of it in the passage about his aunt when she was a prisoner in the rainwater tank. And again, Nicholas wasn’t disobedient. He was told not to enter the gooseberry garden and he didn’t enter. I suppose that it was a great pleasure for Nicholas to mock at the aunt and not to be mischievous.Nicholas aunt seems to be a woman of imperious temper, intolerant of childish pranks, cruel and unforgiving. She tried to extract children’s obedience through pressure and fear. This woman of few ideas, as the author called her, seems to be eager to make the children suffer instead of moulding their characters, activating their best features. Whenever one of the children fell from grace, she tried to improvise something of festival nature from which the offender would be debarred. The aunt was indifferent to the children’s needs; she never listened when they told her important things (for example, Bobby’s boots, which were too tight). She didn’t consider the children’s personalities and never explained her decision to them. So, in the accident with the rain-water tank it was a pleasure for Nicholas to mock at the aunt. After that event, she couldn’t punish Nicholas, but, of course, she didn’t forgive him her sufferings.

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