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THE STOLEN BASCILLUS

Q. Critically analyse the story "the stolen bacillus".


A. H.G. Wells's "The Stolen Bacillus" is a satirical short story about the potential
role of science and scientists in facilitating bio-terrorism. This is done by having a
very intelligent bacteriologist being ignorant about the consequences of his work.
I often think that some scientists are so involved with whether or not they can do
something that they do not bother considering whether or not they should do
something. Wells is making that exact point with the bacteriologist in the story.
The character is obviously intelligent when it comes to his field. He is capable of
working with these dangerous biologicals, and he understands how easily they
could wipe out a population, but he doesn't consider that someone might actually
do it. He's ignorant about motivations of people like the anarchist.
The anarchist steals a vial of bacteria and runs out. The bacteriologist runs after
the man. His wife is appalled at his appearance and runs after her husband with
his shoes, coat, and hat. The anarchist breaks and ingests the bacteria, and the
scientist lets him go.
It turns out the bacteria is not a population killing machine. The only reason the
bacteriologist gave chase was because he didn't want to have to start his work
over again. The final few paragraphs really drive home the satire of the story,
because Wells does a great job of portraying the bacteriologist as an absentminded professor. He's unaware of his clothing appearance. He is bothered by
the "trouble and expense of preparing some more" bacteria. He is not at all
concerned about the possibility that the anarchist very well could have gotten a
hold of some very deadly disease. Wells really makes his reader consider the fact
that it is possible that there are scientists working all over the place with a variety
of deadly concoctions with no consideration for security or the potential
consequences of their work.
-------------Q. Discuss "The Stolen Bacillus" as a science fiction story.
A."The Stolen Bacillus" belongs to the genre of science fiction and, to
understand why, it is useful to look at a relevant definition. According to the
University of California, for example, a science fiction story is one which presents
an "alternative world" (see the reference link provided). In "The Stolen Bacillus,"
the setting is London but it is a very different London to the one which Wells'
readers were accustomed to. In Wells' London, for instance, the city is at risk from
anarchists who use deception to wage biological warfare by poisoning the water
supply.
In addition, science fiction stories have very distinctive character types, like "the
scientist" and "the action hero" (see the reference link provided) and "The Stolen
Bacillus" is no exception. Wells conforms to these character types by creating "the
Anarchist" and "the Bacteriologist," two typical yet contrasting character types
who also create the story's central conflict.
-------------Q. What is the theme of "The Stolen Bacillus" and how is it relevant in present
times?

A.In "The Stolen Bacillus," the threat of terrorism is an important theme. We see
this through the character of the Anarchist who uses deception to gain entrance
into the Bacteriologist's laboratory. The purpose of his visit is to obtain the cholera
bacillus which he will then use to wreak havoc on the streets of London. While
Wells does not reveal the specific political motivations of the Anarchist, it is clear
that he seeks personal notoriety and long-lasting fame:
"The world should hear of him at last."
In the contemporary world, terrorism remains one of the most pressing issues for
political leaders and their governments, particularly since the September 11
attacks in the U.S. in 2001. The Bacteriologist's attempt at capturing the Anarchist
is, therefore, very relevant to modern times because it remains a real and
constant threat.
-------------Q. Do you consider the Anarchist in "The Stolen Bacillus" by H. G. Wells to be the
victim of a prank?
A. In "The Stolen Bacillus," the Anarchist is not the victim of a deliberate prank, in
the traditional sense. In fact, the Bacteriologist has no idea that his visitor is an
anarchist who intends to steal the bacillus for the purposes of poisoning the water
supply. Instead, he thinks that the Anarchist is simply a curious visitor to his
laboratory and the Bacteriologist has no knowledge of the man's real intentions. It
is for this reason that he shows him the bacillus and, as a means of impressing
him, he claims to have live cholera in his possession. This attempt at showing off
quickly backfires, however, when the Anarchist takes the bacillus and disappears
from the laboratory. The Bacteriologist then gives chase but only because creating
the bacillus is a troublesome process, not because the Anarchist has taken live
cholera. This is demonstrated by his comment at the end of the story:
But the bother is, I shall have all the trouble and expense of preparing some more.
In essence, then, the Anarchist is the victim of a misunderstanding as opposed to
a deliberate prank.
-------------Q. Please explain how H.G. Wells makes use of tension and fear to make "The
Stolen Bacillus" a chilling satire on the dangers of science.
A."The Stolen Bacillus" by H.G. Wells is a satiric short story about the potential
dangers posed by the world of science. Satire is using humor or wit as a form of
ridicule which exposes flaws or faults in mankind or his institutions; the intention
must be to help improve either man or the institution. In this story, Wells
is satirizing the institution of science as well as the role of anarchists in society.
The atmosphere of "tension and fear" is created from the beginning in several
ways. First, of course, is the consistent mention of the dread word: cholera. Just
the word conjures up images of death, horrible suffering and the plague. We are
afraid of what might happen, even though the bacteriologist assures us that these
specimens "have been stained and killed" and are therefore no longer dangerous.
Second, the mysterious visitor to the lab is consistently described as "the palefaced man," something which conjures a mystery of danger and intrigue.

Third, the deadly virus is being kept in a tube, a tube which keeps readers just a
little breathless with anticipation because we know a little glass tube can easily be
broken or stolen--and both things eventually do happen.
Fourth, we begin to see a transformation in the pale-faced man as we see a gleam
in his eyes as he becomes more and more mesmerized by the sight of the deadly
bacteria in the tube, "devouring the little tube with his eyes." It is especially
chilling when he begins to recite the litany of ways in which the deadly virus
might be silently transmitted to every person and animal. The more he talks, the
more we know that this is not only something he has given much thought to, but
it is something he almost anticipates with delight.
Note the language of death in this description:
Only break such a little tube as this into a supply of drinking water...and death mysterious, untraceable death, death swift and terrible, death full of pain and
indignity - would be released upon this city, and go hither and thither seeking his
victims.... He would follow the watermains, creeping along streets, picking out and
punishing a house here and a house there where they did not boil their drinkingwater, creeping into the wells of the mineral-water makers, getting washed into
salad, and lying dormant in ices. He would wait ready to be drunk in the horsetroughs, and by unwary children in the public fountains. He would soak into the
soil, to reappear in springs and wells at a thousand unexpected places. Once start
him at the water supply, and before we could ring him in, and catch him again, he
would have decimated the metropolis.
The word "death" is repeated for effect, and then it is personified as a person who
goes, seeks, takes, creeps, lies in wait, appears and disappears, punishes and
eventually "decimates." There is a cumulative effect to these words and images,
and our sense of fear and doom increases until it reaches a crescendo of
destruction--an entire city has been destroyed. This could happen.
As we feared, the man steals the tube and runs; and we know exactly what will
happen because he has told us. The satire (wit and humor) happen once the
desperate, life-and-death chase ensues. The scientist is a ridiculous figure who
runs off half-dressed, and the chase is a spectacle that the cabbies place bets on.
We are horrified that the tube breaks, unleashing destruction, until we discover it
was not cholera and the man is likely to turn blue--like a monkey. Science looks
just as foolish.
-------------Q. How did the Bacteriologist know that the man who visited him was an
anarchist, in the story "The Stolen Bacillus?"
A.A major portion of that story is focused on showing readers that scientists are so
absorbed in their work that they don't anticipate its possible missuses. In other
words, the story is stating that many scientists are so wrapped up in whether or
not they can do something that they don't consider whether or not they should do
something.
In answer to your question, the Bacteriologist does not figure out the anarchist
is a an anarchist until the anarchist announces it.
"Vive l'Anarchie! You are too late, my friend, I have drunk it. The cholera is
abroad!"

The Bacteriologist from his cab beamed curiously at him through his spectacles.
"You have drunk it! An Anarchist! I see now."
The scientist was completely clueless that this other man came to his lab for
nefarious purposes.
Even at the end of the story, it is unclear if the scientist has actually learned
anything from the story. He is more upset about having to start his work all over
again than he is upset about the fact that a person tried to use his work to kill
millions of people.

But the bother is, I shall have all the trouble and expense of
preparing some more
-------------Q. How does the "pale-faced man" gain access to the Bacteriologist and his
laboratory in "The Stolen Bacillus" by H. G. Wells?
A.In "The Stolen Bacillus," the "pale-faced man" is an anarchist who gains access
to the Bacteriologist's laboratory by means of deception. He does this by forging a
"letter of introduction" which purports to come from an "old friend" of the
Bacteriologist.
This ruse is successful because the Bacteriologist believes that he shares a
mutual friend with the visitor. He also believes that this "pale-faced man" has a
genuine interest in his research and in his profession, more generally, as we see
from the text:
"The fitful yet keen interest of his visitor were a novel change from the phlegmatic
deliberations of the ordinary scientific worker with whom the Bacteriologist chiefly
associated."
In reality, however, the "pale-faced man" is an Anarchist intent on committing the
mass murder of London, using one of the strains of bacteria grown in the
Bacteriologist's laboratory. Cholera appears to offer the best chance of making his
plan successful, but what he, in fact, steals is little more than a chemical to turn
the skin blue.
-------------Q. In "The Stolen Bacillus," how does the author bring out the contrast between
the Bacteriologist and the Anarchist? Are there any similarities between the
two characters?
A. In "The Stolen Bacillus," Wells contrasts the characters of the Bacteriologist and
the Anarchist through their attitudes towards the bacteria in the laboratory. For
the Bacteriologist, for instance, the cholera bacteria are dangerous and bring
nothing but death and destruction to society:
Here he would take the husband from the wife, here the child from its mother,
here the statesman from his duty, and here the toiler from his trouble.
In contrast, the Anarchist views the cholera bacteria with wonder and amazement.
When he first sees it, for example, his eyes are filled with "morbid pleasure" and
there is a "gleam of satisfaction" in his face.

While their characters seem very different, however, both men are keen to
impress and "astonish" those around them. The Bacteriologist does this by
pretending that his blue bacteria is, in fact, "bottled cholera" while the Anarchist
concocts a plan to steal the cholera from the laboratory so that he can poison the
city's water supply and achieve infamy.
-------------Q. What is a character sketch of the Anarchist in the story "The Stolen Bacillus" by
H. G. Wells?
A. The Anarchist is one of the main characters in Wells' story "The Stolen Bacillus."
From Wells' characterization, we see that the Anarchist is a deceitful person. He
uses deception to gain access to the laboratory, for example, by forging a "letter
of introduction."
Secondly, the Anarchist is also very proud of himself and his achievements. This is
evident after he steals the bacillus and is musing on his plan:
"No Anarchist had ever approached this conception of his."
Finally, the Anarchist is the sort of person who is concerned with his reputation
and personal legacy. He compares himself to other anarchists, for instance, like
"Ravachol" and "Vaillant," and thinks that this plan will bring him fame, something
which he evidently desires:
"The world should hear of him at last."
Moreover, for the Anarchist, the plan to steal the bacillus is also about proving a
point to other people who may have doubted him in the past. He alludes to this
idea after fleeing the scene of the crime, and this also goes some way in
explaining the Anarchist's motivation:
"He would teach them yet what it is to isolate a man."

THE LOST JEWELS


Q. How can you say that the story The Lost Jewels is mysterious?
A. The Lost Jewels by the Choose Your Own Adventure series is part of the idea
that the outcome of the story depends on which choice you give your character.
Part of the mystery here is the idea that you don't know what outcome will arrive
until you select it.
Within the story itself, the plot about stolen jewels and previous family member
deaths create the sense of foreboding and mystery as you search for the jewels to
return to the museum. Through foreshadowing (hints along the journey), the
author seeks to get you closer to the jewels and the identity of who stole them
and then when you make your choice about what to do, then you get to read
about another part of your family history.
--------------

Q. Briefly outlining the story, explain the role of irony in the story "The Lost
Jewels."
A. Rabindranath Tagore's short story "The Lost Jewels" is told through a dialogue
between the main character and an old schoolmaster whom he happened to
stumble upon. He was visiting what 15 years prior was his own estate, which now
lays in ruin just as he, Bhusan, lays in anonymity. The man who was speaking to
him was basically telling the story of the ruin of the said Bhusan Saha; on how his
biggest weakness seems to have been the love that he had for his wife. A love so
strong that it rendered Bhusan weak, mistakenly assuming that the only way to
possess his wife completely is to give in to her every whim, particularly every
material desire that she wishes. However, this is the Asian culture and the role of
men and women change considerably from those roles practices in the Western
world. In a way, the schoolmaster blames Bhusan for having lost his wife's love.
...it is hardly necessary to tell you that the ordinary female is fond of sour green
mangoes, hot chillies, and a stern husband. A man need not necessarily be ugly or
poor to be cheated of his wife's love; but he is sure to lose it if he is too gentle.
The problem with the jewels is that they were the primary object of desire of
Bhusan's wife, Mani. It replaced anything that Bhusan and Mani could have had in
common; the want for children, their mutual trust, their mutual desire...all that the
wife felt for Bhusan was the same emotion one feels when one has hit a lottery
that keeps on giving.
More ironic still is that, after Bhusan's fall from grace, the jewels began to
represent the last vestige of his lifeline: the only thing that could potentially bring
back what once was. Still, the irony comes when his wife is willing to die with her
jewels rather than give them to her husband to recuperate his loses. She goes as
far as escaping with an opportunistic cousin to her father's house to keep the
jewels preserved. This adds to the humiliation and desperation of the situation. It
shows that Bhusan has lost every control of his wife, and his life in general. The
saddest part is that the wife, nor her cousin, are ever found again. We are unsure
if they drowned in the river, or if they escaped together. Yet, this goes to show
that the value placed upon material objects was never worth the salt of the
marriage, nor did it ever get to demonstrate anything:
The unfortunate Bhusan had been turned out of the machine of modern
civilization an absolutely faultless man. He was therefore neither successful in
business nor in his own home.
The irony also comes from the fact that the schoolmaster insists in that being
good and kind is what leads to problems; that it denotes weakness and that being
incorruptible is actually a bad thing.
Man is the rod of God's justice, to him has been entrusted the thunderbolt of the
divine wrath, and if at wrong done to himself or another it does not at once break
out into fury, then it is a shame. God has so arranged it that man, for the most
trifling reason, will burst forth in anger like a forest fire, and woman will burst into
tears like a rain-cloud for no reason at all. But the cycle seems to have changed,
and this appears no longer to hold good.
The fact that the roles are interchanged, and that the role of the good husband
and provider is seen as a sign of weakness, are some of the biggest ironies seen
in the story "The Lost Jewels".
--------------

Q. How can one justify the names given to Mani and Bhusan in the story "The Lost
Jewels"?
A.

You
might
be
interested
to
know
that
in
Sanskrit,
the
name Bhushan means ornament. In the story, Tagore tells us that Bhushan
was not especially successful in his business nor his marriage. Thus, we are
led to speculate whether Tagore intended to highlight certain themes through
utilizing Bhushan as a character foil for his wife, Mani.

-------------Q. Present a character sketch of Mani from Rabindranath Tagore's "The Lost
Jewels" based on the statement, "Mani did not understand Bhusan, that's
true."
A. Mani is described as a selfish woman who only takes from her husband,
Bhusan, rather than giving anything in return. The story also describes her as
viewing her husband as "a mere machine for turning out her Dacca muslins and
her banglesso perfect a machine, indeed, that never for a single day did she
need to oil its wheels." As the story progresses, Tagore also notes that Mani is not
overly talkative or social. She tries to avoid interacting with her neighbors and
seems unaffected by her isolation. Another notable fact about her character is
that she never appears older than sixteen, even after many years had passed.
Tagore uses this suspension of youth as a metaphor for Mani's frozen heart.
Tagore also describes Mani as a character who is efficient and dedicated to her
work. She does not hire more servants than necessary and she is not "distracted
by love." In light of the statement, "Mani did not understand Bhusan, that's true,"
it is easy to see that her relationship with Bhusan is strained. While he adores her,
Mani's selfish character keeps her from being a loving partner and she does not
return his affections. For his part, Bhusan's weakness leads him to spoil Mani,
which prevents her from growing as a person and as a wife. The statement also
serves to illustrate the emotional differences between husband and wife. While
Mani does not understand Bhusan's gentle nature, it is clear that he is equally
oblivious to her callousness.
-------------Q. What is the central idea in the story Lost Jewels by Rabindranath Tagore?
A. In Rabindranath Tagore's short story Lost Jewels, Tagore allows the reader to
consider the endless possible outcomes to his story and the message or central
idea and theme that he imparts. The central idea is considered in the title and
reveals the context of the poem. The central idea is a more direct interpretation
than the theme which helps the reader understand the broader or universal
appeal of the story.
Although the issue of Bhusan's lies about his true identity indicates that there is
more to the story than meets the eye, the central idea revolves around Bhusan's
dilemma and how devastated he is that his wife never returns to him. He has to
listen to the schoolmaster tell him his own story, making it all the more painful
and revealing his flaws. The greed of his wife and his own "passivity" both
contribute to the central idea. The couple's inability to communicate is
complicated by their lack of understanding of each other and the fact that neither
is interested in gaining something more precious than any jewels (his wife) or
shallow need to please (himself). Ironically, it is the very jewels that Bhusan buys
his wife to show his love for her that ultimately cause their rift. His wife's greed
and expectations overwhelm them both to the point that she does not recognize

his needs, or even care, and he has contributed to her attitude by excluding her to
the point that she feels no obligation to help him recover from his business
difficulties.
The story serves as a warning that relationships require mutual respect otherwise
there can be no growth. This couple do not learn from their mistakes and it is too
late for Bhusan to make any changes. He anticipates his wife's return but it is
unlikely that he would have done anything differently. Only after the dreams does
he begin to understand his own contribution to the problem, even though the
school master does suggest that their relationship had no foundation and so was
doomed to failure. Whereas the theme is love, greed and the universal problems
associated with these issues, the central idea of this story is how Bhusan and his
wife's lack of communication and respect manifests itself in her greed and his
regret.

LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER:


Q. "Lamb to the Slaughter" is a tale of love, betrayal, and revenge. In this context,
discuss how the author brings out those themes of the story.
A. The theme of love can be seen in Mary Maloney. Dahl makes it clear early on in
the story that Mary is completely devoted and in love with Patrick. When the
reader is introduced to Mary, she is quietly sitting down and waiting for Patrick to
come home.
Now and again she would glance up at the clock, but without anxiety, merely to
please herself with the thought that each minute gone by made it nearer the time
when he would come.
Once Patrick arrives home, Mary becomes the quintessential doting wife. She
anticipates Patrick's every need, and she is made happy simply by being in his
presence.
For her, this was always a blissful time of day. She knew he didnt want to speak
much until the first drink was finished, and she, on her side, was content to sit
quietly, enjoying his company after the long hours alone in the house. She loved
to luxuriate in the presence of this man, and to feel almost as a sunbather feels
the sun that warm male glow that came out of him to her when they were alone
together.
It is absolutely clear to readers that Mary is completely and utterly in love with
Patrick. Unfortunately for Mary, Patrick no longer feels the same about her. He
betrays her love, and his news completely blindsides Mary. The reader never
learns exactly what Patrick says to Mary, but it is clear that the marriage is over.
He either wants a divorce or tells her that he is just going to leave her. It doesn't
matter though, because the news completely devastates Mary.
When she walked across the room she couldnt feel her feet touching the floor.
She couldnt feel anything at all except a slight nausea and a desire to vomit.
In a way, Mary also betrays Patrick. He trusts that his meek wife is going to sit
back and politely take his bad news. I assumed the same thing when I read the
story for the first time too; however, Mary betrays that trust when she clubs him
over the head with a frozen leg of lamb.

Mary's act of violence against Patrick is evidence toward the theme of revenge,
but I think there is better evidence. I don't like only using Patrick's death for the
revenge theme. The reason is because I don't think Mary planned her revenge.
For me, revenge carries the connotation of a planned act. I personally believe
revenge is premeditated. I don't think Mary planned to kill, or even to hit, Patrick.
Mary is still operating in a daze as she hits and kills Patrick. Readers know this
because the text says that Mary came out of her daze after Patrick crashed to the
floor.
The violence of the crash, the noise, the small table overturning, helped bring her
out of her shock. She came out slowly, feeling cold and surprised, and she stood
for a while blinking at the body, still holding the ridiculous piece of meat tight with
both hands.
For me, the revenge theme's best evidence is what Mary does after Patrick hits
the floor. From that moment forward, Mary is planning and plotting to get away
with her action. Patrick is a cop, and many of their friends are cops. The fact that
Mary is able to get away with killing a police officer by fooling other officers that
are her friends makes Patrick's death sweet revenge.
-------------Q. In the story "Lamb To The Slaughter" by Roald Dahl, is Mary Maloney more of a
hero or a villain?
A. I don't like thinking of Mary as a hero or a villain. She is probably better
described as a victim of circumstance. I can defend the notion of her being a hero
because she does protect her unborn child. That's what heroes do. They protect
innocent people, and nothing is more innocent than an unborn child. I also can
think of Mary as a hero if I compare her to Patrick. He's a character that is easy to
think of as a villain. He completely blindsides Mary with the news that he is
leaving her, and it devastates Mary because he is the central force around which
her life revolves. If Patrick is the villain, and Mary fights against Patrick, then she
is the hero.
On the other hand, I can see Mary as a villain, too. She kills an unsuspecting,
unarmed human being and then lies to law enforcement in order to get away with
it. Additionally, she has the investigating detectives eat the murder weapon while
she laughs about it. In my head I keep picturing an evil genius doing his/her
sinister laugh right before the credits roll. That's what villains do.
Personally, I think its right here on the premises.
Probably right under our very noses. What you think, Jack?
And in the other room, Mary Maloney began to giggle.
-------------Q. How does the point of view in "Lamb to the Slaughter" change?
A. Over the course of Roald Dahl's "Lamb to the Slaughter," the point of view is
always third person limited. We as readers are told about events from Mary's point
of reference for the entirety of the story. She is spoken about in third person, but
we learn about her emotions as though she is the one telling us how she feels.

As the story progresses, though, Mary's point of view does change. Initially, she is
in disbelief over Patrick's announcement, but after killing him behaves very calmly
as she goes about deciding her next steps. She wisely decides to go to the store
and talk to the grocer about her plans for making Patrick dinner that night, which
will give her an alibi for why she could not have killed her husband.
Upon returning home, though, Mary suddenly behaves as though she really is
discovering Patrick is dead for the first time. She becomes very upset and cries.
This is likely because Mary is just now fully realizing that she killed her husband.
In that way, it could be argued that Mary's own perspective changes throughout
the story.
-------------Q. How does Roald Dahl use irony in "Lamb to the Slaughter" to bring out Mary's
brilliant presence of mind?
A. The title itself is using verbal irony. Normally when someone says "lamb to the
slaughter" it refers to a lamb that is unknowingly going to be killed. That is not the
case with this story. The phrase "lamb to the slaughter" this time means a lamb is
coming to do the actual killing. I keep hearing in my head something like
"superman to the rescue," but with "lamb, to the slaughter!"
Another use of irony is dramatic irony. That's the kind where the audience knows
something the characters do not know. In this story that occurs at the end when
an investigating officer states that the murder weapon is likely just under their
noses. He doesn't realize that the murder weapon is very much indeed under his
nose, since--because of Mary's brilliant presence of mind--he is eating the lamb
that was used to bludgeon the victim, Patrick, to death.
-------------Q. How would you describe Mary Maloney's behavior before and after the murder
in "Lamb to the Slaughter"?
A. Before committing the murder, Mary behaves in the same way that she would
on any other evening. She prepares the home for her husband's arrival by lighting
the lamps and then preparing the glasses for their drinks. When Patrick arrives at
the house, she removes his coat and fixes them both a drink.
After the murder, Mary washes her hands, "fixes" her make-up and puts the lamb
in the oven before going to the grocery store. There, she buys some vegetables
before coming home and reporting her husband's death to the police. When the
police arrive, she answers some questions while they look around for the murder
weapon. In the middle of the search, she feeds them the leg of lamb she used to
murder Patrick.
What is significant about Mary's behavior before and after the murder is that she
never deviates from her domestic role. Before the murder, she focuses on the
well-being of her husband. After murdering him, she continues as normal, buying
items from the store and then feeding the police officers at her home. It is,
perhaps, this continuity in her behavior that allows her to get away with her
crime.
--------------

Q. Justify the title of the story "Lamb to the Slaughter."


A. The title of "Lamb to the Slaughter" is rather ingenious because it has so many
possible meanings. "Lamb to the Slaughter" is more than a double-entendre; it
might be called a "quadruple-entendre." A frozen leg of lamb is used by Mary
Maloney to "slaughter" her husband. That weapon once belonged to a real lamb
that was "slaughtered" in order to be used as food. Patrick is the one who is
"slaughtered" in the story. He is an easy victim of his enraged wife because, like a
lamb going to the slaughter, he is completely unsuspecting. Mary, who does the
slaughtering in the story, behaves very much like a meek lamb until her husband
shatters her illusions by telling her that he wants out of their marriage. The police
who arrive on the scene do not suspect Mary because they have always
considered her a very meek, mild, gentle, patient woman, not unlike a lamb. The
whole story is based on the fact that the murder weapon is never found because
no one would ever think of a murderer using a frozen leg of lamb for the
"slaughter."

THE LUMBER ROOM


Q. What is the significance of the title with respect to the short story, "The
Lumber Room"?
A. The title of Saki's short story, "The Lumber Room" is significant because this
forbidden room represents the self-appointed aunt's lack of imagination and
appreciation for creativity, all of which Nicholas possesses. The boy's ability to
find the key and enter into this room represents his victory over his aunt's petty
dullness.
After he is punished for his subversive prank of tricking the obtuse aunt about a
frog being in his morning bowl of bread-and-milk, Nicholas is sentenced to remain
home while his boy and girl cousins are afforded the privilege of going to the
beach. And, because he is in "disgrace," Nicholas is forbidden entrance into the
gooseberry garden. Now, because Nicholas could enter this garden by one of two
doors and hide in the "masking growth" of vegetables, the aunt decides that she
will have to keep the garden under her surveillance:
...she spent an hour or two in trivial gardening operations among flower beds and
shrubberies, whence she could watch the two doors that led to the forbidden
paradise. She was a woman of few ideas, with immense powers of concentration.
While she is thus occupied, Nicholas sneaks off to the lumber room for which he
has discovered the key. He opens the door and enters into "an unknown land"
filled with artistic items such as a tapestry which tells the story of a hunter and his
dogs, who pursue a stag. There several other interesting items are stored, among
them a book of delightful pictures of resplendent birds.
After a while, Nicholas hears a shrill cry from his aunt, who has fallen into a water
tank in the gooseberry garden. Again, he foils her as she cries for rescue, but he
cleverly reminds her that he has been forbidden to enter this garden. So, she
must remain in this embarrassing position until a kitchen maid needs vegetables
from this garden and hears her cries.

That evening, it is an aunt who sits in "frozen muteness" at supper because the
cousins have not enjoyed their day, either. Only the silence of Nicholas contains
bemusement as he wonders whether the hunter and his hounds will escape while
the wolves devour his wounded stag in the lumber room.
-------------Q. What differences do we see in the story between elders and young children in
"The Lumber Room''?
A. Ironically, it is the children who are more imaginative, clever, and objective
than the petty, pontificating, self-affirming aunt.
The main conflict in "The Lumber Room" revolves around the myopic perceptions
of the "soi-distant aunt." When Nicholas announces that there is a frog in his
bread-and-milk, his aunt is so short-sighted and ignorant of the antics of
mischievous boys that she cannot imagine a frog getting into the boy's bowl, so
she refutes Nicholas's claim with pontification, declaring that there cannot
possibly be a frog in his bowl.
Nicholas, then, is punished for his "sin of taking a frog from the garden and
putting it into a bowl of wholesome bread-and-milk"; in fact, his mischief is
magnified because the "older, wiser" adult has been proven to be "profoundly in
error in a matter about which [she] has expressed supreme confidence." It is her
pettiness that raises the ire of the clever Nicholas, who determines to outsmart
her later by manipulating circumstances to his advantage where he can
manipulate her own orders against her. For, when she falls into the water tank and
calls out to Nicholas to help her, he reminds the aunt that he was given strict
instructions not to enter the garden. So, she rescinds her order, but the
imaginative Nicholas retorts,
"Your voice doesn't sound like aunt's," objected Nicholas....Aunt often tells me that
the Evil One tempts me and that I always yield. This time I'm not going to yield."
Then, he tricks her into admitting that there is strawberry jam that he may have
with tea so that he can affirm that she must, indeed, be the Evil One since his
aunt has told him earlier that there was none. After this, Nicholas abandons her
and the aunt is only later rescued by a servant.
The aunt, of course, "was a woman of few ideas, with immense powers of
concentration," but Nicholas has enjoyed adventures of the imagination in the
Lumber Room and "an unusual sense of luxury in being able to talk to an aunt as
though one were talking to the Evil One...." With "childish discernment," though,
he does not over-indulge.
-------------Q. In the short story "The Lumber Room" by H. H. Munro, what is Nicholas doing in
the lumber room?
A. In the lumber room, Nicholas delightedly unleashes his imagination as he
examines the treasures stored away in this dusty room.
Nicholas escapes from his prosaic and supercilious aunt by sequestering himself
in the forbidden lumber room after assuring his safety by cleverly assuming "an
expression of considerable obstinacy." He does this in order to make the aunt

believe that he truly desires to enter the gooseberry garden and will make efforts
to do so. With this subterfuge, Nicholas ensures that his aunt will occupy herself in
"self-imposed sentry-duty for the greater part of the afternoon," and he can safely
enjoy himself elsewhere.
Once in the lumber room, Nicholas indulges in flights of fancy as he happily gazes
at all the "wonderful things" therein. Among them are quaint objects of interest
and delight that absorb his attention:

candlesticks that are twisted into the shapes of snakes from an exotic
world
an old-fashioned teapot shaped like a china duck whose beak is the pour
spout
a sandalwood box containing small, delightful brass figures of Brahma
bulls, peacocks, and mischievous dwarf-like demons
a large book filled with pictures of exotic and resplendent birds such as
wood pigeons, herons, bustards, toucans, scarlet ibises, golden pheasants, and
many others
But the object that truly arrests Nicholas's attention is a large tapestry which
depicts a hunter who has shot a stag with an arrow. To him it is "a living, breathing
story" in which he becomes the narrator. Looking at the scene of the deer impaled
with the hunter's arrow and the two dogs "springing forward," having remained at
point while the hunter shot, Nicholas engages his imagination as he wonders if the
hunter, who has but two arrows left, and the dogs will be able to hold off the four
wolves who are stealing upon them:
Nicholas sat for many golden minutes revolving the possibilities of the scene; he
was inclined to think that there were more than four wolves and that the man and
his dogs were in a tight corner.
His exciting reveries about the deer and the picture-book birds are unfortunately
cut short by "the shrill vociferation" of his appointed-aunt's voice calling his name
from the forbidden gooseberry garden. Nicholas returns the bird book to its place
and leaves the room, locking it, and replacing the key where it had long rested.
-------------Q. Compare the gooseberry garden and the lumber room.
A. Both the gooseberry garden and the lumber room are forbidden territory in
The Lumber Room by Saki. Due to being in disgrace Nicholas is told he is not
to enter the gooseberry garden. The garden surrounded by walls with a door at
either end. Within those walls are natural delights such as artichokes and fruit
bushes. The vegetation is thick and easy for a child to hide in. The aunt is sure
Nicholas will attempt to access the garden, but he has another idea.
While the aunt is preoccupied with her gardening tasks, Nicholas gains access to
the forbidden lumber room by using the hidden key. Much to Nicholas delight, the
room is filled with mysterious objects. Much like the garden, the room has high
walls, and its only source of light is a window that opens to the gooseberry
garden. While in the lumber room, Nicholas examines a tapestry depicting a hunt
scene that alludes to the image of his aunt who is on the hunt for him. As he
moves through the room, he examines other curiosities stored away in the dark,
dusty room.

In comparison, the gooseberry garden and the lumber room are similar in that
they are both forbidden territory filled with delights. Both have high walls and
limited access. One is filled with natural delights while the other is filled with
material items that are valuable to the adults but off limits to the children. On this
particular day, the gooseberry garden is restricted territory for Nicholas, the only
child at home.
-------------Q. How did the aunt punish children in "The Lumber Room"?
A. At the beginning of the story, we find out that Nicholas is in disgrace. A frog has
been discovered in his basin of bread-and-milk. Although his elders insist that
there could not possibly be a frog in his basin, he declares that there is indeed
one in there. After all, he put it there himself. For this trespass, Nicholas will not be
going to Jagborough Sands with his cousins.
His aunt has hastily invented 'the Jagborough expedition in order to impress on
Nicholas the delights that he has justly forfeited by his disgraceful conduct at the
breakfast-table.' Whenever any of the children misbehave, she would organize an
exciting trip or an event in which the offender would be rigorously barred from
participating. If all the children misbehave collectively, all would be suddenly
made aware of a wonderful circus in a neighboring town, with unsurpassed
entertainment and untold number of elephants present. All the children would
then be told that they would have been taken to this circus that very day if they
had not misbehaved.
This is how the aunt punishes misbehaving children in 'The Lumber Room.'

THE

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