The Guests by Saki: Summary & Analysis

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ginna Wilkerson

Ginna earned M.Ed. degrees in Curriculum and Development and Mental Health Counseling, followed by a Ph.D. in English. She has over 30 years of teaching experience.

''The Guests'' is a short story by Hector Hugh Munro, better known by the pen name Saki. As is common for this particular short story writer, the tone of the story is satirical, commenting on British upper class society. Updated: 11/04/2020

The Guests by Saki

Why would one culture find it acceptable to come into a foreign country and take over? The idea of the British Empire expanding all over the globe is part of the particular time period in ''The Guests,'' a short story by Saki, the pen name of Hector Hugh Munro, a talented and witty British writer, best known for his short stories that frequently satirized upper class British culture and society.

In one way, this is a short story in which nothing actually happens. Two women, Matilda and Annabel, are talking, and all of the action in the story takes place in the context of their conversation. The author never directly states that the conversation is taking place in England. However, the description of the landscape in the introduction to the story makes for a logical guess.

The context of the story is a period of time when India was part of the British Empire, which had direct rule in India from 1858 to 1947. During this period, many wealthy British citizens made their homes in India, having Indian natives as servants, both in the home and tending to livestock.

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  • 0:04 'The Guests' by Saki
  • 1:12 The Bishop
  • 2:08 The Flood
  • 2:47 The Leopard
  • 3:37 Literary Analysis
  • 4:35 Lesson Summary
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The Bishop

One of the women in the story, Matilda, appreciates the peace and quiet compared to the domestic upset in her Indian home. Here is a brief version of the story Matilda tells her friend Annabel.

Matilda's husband was away from the home due to the belief of some villagers that there was a were-tiger abroad in the countryside. She therefore had to entertain a distant family member alone: a Bishop who was holding some type of grudge over a Crown Derby dessert service inherited by one branch of the family or the other.

Matilda tells her friend, ''Now here was one of them turning up in the odour of sanctity, so to speak, and claiming the traditional hospitality of the East.''

Apparently, though Matilda tried to be polite, the Bishop was determined to revive the quarrel, and the two end up barely speaking to each other. Matilda's cook is away visiting his mother, which further angers her guest, ''and from that moment we were scarcely on speaking terms.''

The Flood

That's when nature steps in to create even more havoc. The Gwadlipichee River overflows and sets in motion a series of events. The horses must be led to swim to higher ground, the goats and the goatherd (with his family) must be brought indoors, and the hens and chickens must be allowed to take up residence in every possible spare part of the house.

The back-up cook fails miserably when it comes to measuring up to the Bishop's standards, and the entire household is a wreck from top to bottom. Into this scene walks the Bishop, who, after awakening from his nap, finds his way into the family sitting room, which he has been coldly asked not to enter.

The Leopard

Matilda tells him that there is nowhere for him to sit, as ''The verandah is full of goats.'' He then replies that there is also a goat in his room - a dead goat being devoured by a leopard.

Annabel is shocked by this new twist in her friend's story, but Matilda seems to think it a matter of course. After all, the leopard posed no real danger, as it had just eaten an entire goat and was ready to sleep.

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