'Wolves by Jamrach' :
the elusive undercurrents in Saki's short stories

 

A thesis presented for the degree
of M.Litt. at the University of
Aberdeen

by

Pamela M. Pringle, MA (St Andrews)

July, 1993

 

 

CONTENTS

Acknowledgements

Summary

Note on Text

Chapter 1  Introduction

Chapter 2  "Inexorable Child-Logic"

Chapter 3  "The Domain of Miracle"

Chapter 4  "The Realms of Fiction"

Chapter 5  "Elaborate Futilities"

Chapter 6  Conclusion

Select Bibliography

Appendix A
List of Abbreviations
Table of Frequency of Key Words

Appendix B
"The East Wing"

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I am indebted in the composition of this dissertation to my supervisor, Dr Martin Ray, for his expert guidance and advice, given ungrudgingly and with humour.   I should also like to thank my husband for his wholehearted support, and my two sponsors: Dr John Thompson, for his enthusiastic encouragement, and Mr Tom Casey, without whose belief in me I should never have begun.

SUMMARY

The aim of this study is to examine in depth the means by which Saki exposes the weaknesses and vices of Edwardian society.   By concentrating on his short stories, in which his surest and most consistent voice is to be heard, it has been possible to isolate certain elements which facilitate close analysis.

There are certain human failings to which Saki constantly draws attention.   For the purpose of questioning what underlies the glittering surface of society four "voices" have been identified.

The first is the voice of the child, pitting himself with "inexorable Child-Logic" against the rigid and unimaginative adultmind and revealing a superiority which is designed to surprise.

In "The Domain of Miracle", it is the supernatural element which fulfills this function, the unsuspecting human being shocked out of complacency by undreamed-of realities.

"The Realms of Fiction" comprises the liars and tricksters who use their verbal skills and powers of imagination to reveal the truths about their victims, and the practical jokers who devise elaborate pranks for the same purpose.

The title of the fourth chapter, "Elaborate Futilities", is an attempt to encapsulate the essence of the society which Saki satirises, with its meaningless rituals and unquestioning platitudes.

Throughout all the stories the voice of the jungle is clearly to be heard.

This dissertation has attempted to explain some of the topical, historical, mythological and religious allusions which pepper Saki's pages and add to his indefinable spice.   Certain key words which recur with what seems to be significant frequency are tabled in Appendix A.

Appendix B contains the text of "The East Wing", a story which has not previously appeared in a collected edition.

NOTE ON TEXT

Unless otherwise specified all page numbers refer to H.H. Munro, The Penguin Complete Saki (London: Penguin, 1982).   References prefixed by "L" refer to A.J. Langguth, Saki: A Life of Hector Hugh Munro. With Six Short Stories Never Previously Collected (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1981).

In the course of research one or two other items of interest have come to light: a satirical sketch in the Westminster Gazette (July 22, 1902, pp.1-2), entitled "The Woman Who Never Should"; and a story in Methuen's Annual (London: Methuen, 1914) called "The East Wing" and subtitled "A Tragedy in the Manner of the Discursive Dramatists".   There appears to have been no previous discussion of the latter.   All page numbers prefixed by "M" refer to this story, the text of which is to be found in Appendix B.

The title of this dissertation: "Wolves by Jamrach: the Elusive Undercurrents..." is an amalgam of quotations from "Reginald's Drama": "'Wolves in the first act, by Jamrach'" (p. 28) and "'the wolves would be a sort of elusive undercurrent'" (p.30).   Each of the chapter headings is also a quotation from the short stories: "Inexorable Child-Logic" from "The Penance", p.426; "The Domain of Miracle" from "Tobermory", p.109; "The Realms of Fiction" from "The Romancers", p.280; and "Elaborate Futilities" from "Cousin Teresa", p.307.

 

 

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"The Penance"

"The Lumber-Room"

"Sredni Vashtar"

Parallels

Figures in a landscape

The Windows of the Soul

Sound Effects