The Lumber Room by H. H. Munro: Characters & Themes

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

What is 'The Lumber Room' about? What are its themes? If these questions are buzzing around your mind, or if you just want a quick exploration of the story, look no further. We've got you covered.

The Lumber Room

In the short story 'The Lumber Room' by H.H. Munro (or, as he was known by his pen name, Saki), there are two main characters: the so-called aunt and Nicholas. These characters engage in a sort of battle of wits as the author explores the themes of authority and rebellion. Let's take a closer look.

Characters

Nicholas

Frogs and First Impressions

The very first character we are introduced to is Nicholas, and the first thing we are told is that he's being left out of a trip because 'he was in disgrace' for refusing to eat his breakfast because there was a frog in it.

The adults insisted that there was no frog. In fact, Nicholas put a frog in his food, and the only thing that mattered to him was that the adults 'had been proved to be profoundly in error in matters about which they had expressed the utmost assurance.' Looks like we have a rebel on our hands. This aspect of Nicholas's character sets the tone for the rest of the story, and hints at a theme of rebellion and dissent.

Trickery is Afoot

As another part of Nicholas's punishment, his aunt forbids him from going into the Gooseberry garden. Once he realizes that she is focused on guarding the garden, he deceives her by pretending to enter it a few times. Then once he knows she is going to watch the garden like a hawk, he sneaks into the forbidden lumber room instead. This ability to outsmart his aunt makes it clear that Nicholas is clever and cunning.

The Evil One

Eventually his aunt gets suspicious and calls for Nicholas. When he comes out, he finds that his aunt has fallen into a water tank located inside the garden. She asks for help getting out. Nicholas tells her he can't help because he 'was told I wasn't to go into the gooseberry garden.' He's a smart aleck, but he is right.

Nicholas doesn't stop there. He takes it even further by suggestion that she is actually 'The Evil One' - most likely the devil - who is just trying to trick him into breaking his aunt's rule. After catching her in a lie about strawberry jam that she has hidden away, he concludes his conversion by saying 'Oh, Devil, you have sold yourself!' and stomps off. Eventually a maid helps her out of the water tank, no thanks to Nicholas.

The Aunt

The other important character in this story is the aunt. Since the story is mostly told from Nicholas's point of view, we have to rely on his perspective to learn about the aunt.

Punishment

Right from the beginning, we get the idea that she is not going to be portrayed favorably. She is punishing Nicholas, and her method seems a bit twisted. She sends all the other kids to go and play at the beach and tells Nicholas he can't go because he is 'in disgrace.'

Rubbing it In

Not only does she devise the punishment, but she makes sure to drive it home and rub salt in the wound by saying 'It will be a glorious afternoon for racing about over those beautiful sands. How they will enjoy themselves!'

A Woman of Few Ideas

When she becomes obsessed with keeping Nicholas out of the gooseberry garden, the narrator tells us, 'She was a woman of few ideas, with immense powers of concentration. In other words, she can focus on one thing very well, but cannot come up with anything interesting.

Valuable Objects

Another important part of the aunt's character is how she treats precious objects. When Nicholas sneaks into the lumber room, he sees many beautiful objects, including a tapestry that holds his attention for quite some time. Our narrator points out that the aunt believes that using things would spoil them, so she keeps the most amazing and interesting objects hidden away and covered in dust.

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