Tobermory: Summary & Analysis

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.

If you are looking for summary and analysis of H.H Munro's 'Tobermory', you have come to just the right place. Check out the lesson below to get the scoop.

Animal Chat

If you have ever looked at a pet and imagined how awesome it would be to talk to them, you will enjoy what happens in Tobermory. Let's dive in.

Tobermory

Tobermory opens by describing a tea party at the home of Lady Blemley, where a man named Mr. Appin is discussing his new invention with the other attendees. This invention makes it possible for animals to communicate with humans. Specifically, Mr. Appin has successfully used this invention on the Blemleys' cat, Tobermory. The other guests don't believe Mr. Appin until Sir Wilfrid goes looking for the cat and comes back totally shocked. When he called Tobermory (Obviously, Sir Wilfrid isn't a cat owner), the cat responded that it would ''come when he dashed well pleased!''

Tobermory eventually joins the other guests who ask him a few questions. He ignores some of them, with the narrator observing ''It was obvious that boring questions lay outside his scheme of life.'' A woman named Mavis asks what he thinks of human intelligence-- hers specifically. Tobermory responds that she put him in a difficult position, as he had overheard the hostess discussing Mavis' lack of intelligence. He repeats what he heard another guest saying earlier: There is a difference between ''hospitality and the care of the feeble-minded.''

The Plot Thickens

A guest named Major Barfield asks Tobermory about a female cat he has been visiting in the stable. Tobermory replies ''One does not usually discuss these matters in public''. He throws in that the Major probably wouldn't be too happy if they all discussed his romantic life. It is around this time that everyone at the tea party the realizes how much Tobermory knows about them. The looming scandal results in one guest racing off. The members who stayed behind got an earful of gossip before Tobermory dashes off after another cat.

In the cat's absence, the tea party guests immediately discuss how to kill Tobermory, as well as Tobermory's girlfriend, the stable cat. She meets her end at the hands of Sir Wilfrid, but when they leave out a dish of poisoned fish, Tobermory is nowhere to be seen. It isn't until the morning that his dead body is brought in. As it turns out, the tomcat he fought with earlier killed him. The story ends by explaining that after this, Mr. Appin was killed by zoo elephants as he tried to teach them to speak.

Analysis

On the surface, this is a funny story about a cat learning how to talk. However, when the cat's knowledge comes to light, the plot to kill him makes the story less light-hearted. In this way, Saki, H.H Munro's pen name, makes a statement about the role of humans in the world. The major conflict of the story revolves around Tobermory knowing so much about private interactions between the dinner guests. This knowledge itself is fine. It is the fact that Tobermory can share the knowledge which causes the uproar. This calls into question and shines a critical light on whether or not man should 'play God' by interfering with the natural world.

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