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A Short Analysis of Saki’s ‘The Lumber-Room’

A summary of a classic short story

‘The Lumber-Room’ is a classic short story about a child who is too clever for the adults. Specifically, it is about how one clever but mischievous boy, Nicholas, seeks to outwit his aunt so he can gain access to the lumber-room with its hidden treasures and curiosities. But the story might also be viewed as an analysis of the nature of obedience, and the limited adult view of the world, when contrasted with the child’s more expansive and imaginative outlook. You can read ‘The Lumber-Room’ here.

In his Biography, Saki – real name Hector Hugh Munro – recalled his childhood of the 1870s, in which ‘the flower and vegetable gardens were surrounded by high walls and a hedge, and on rainy days we were kept indoors’ where the ‘windows [were] shut and shuttered’. It may be, then, that the adult Munro – reinvented as the Edwardian fiction-writer Saki – was recalling his own upbringing in ‘The Lumber-Room’, which sees the young Nicholas being kept indoors as punishment, deprived of the ‘treat’ of a trip to Jagborough Sands and denied access to the gooseberry garden outside the house. Read the rest of this entry

A Short Analysis of W. H. Auden’s ‘Epitaph on a Tyrant’

A reading of a short political poem

‘Epitaph on a Tyrant’ is one of Auden’s short masterpieces. In just six lines, W. H. Auden (1907-63) manages to say so much about the nature of tyranny. You can read ‘Epitaph on a Tyrant’ here and watch Auden reciting the poem here, before proceeding to our short analysis of this powerful poem that remains all too relevant today. We’re going to go through the poem line by line and combine our summary of ‘Epitaph on a Tyrant’ with a close textual analysis of it, since every line yields new observations and questions.

W. H. Auden spent some time in Berlin during the 1930s, and it was here that he probably wrote ‘Epitaph on a Tyrant’, which was published in 1939, the year that the Second World War broke out. The specific tyrant Auden had in mind, then, was probably Adolf Hitler, though the poem can be analysed as a study in tyranny more generally, too. Read the rest of this entry

A Short Analysis of Edward Thomas’s ‘A Cat’

A summary of a curious cat poem

The poetry of Edward Thomas (1878-1917) is marked by an unsentimental view of nature, and the short poem ‘A Cat’ is a fine example of his direct and matter-of-fact style that nevertheless summons an emotional response from the reader. What a close analysis of Thomas’s poetry often reveals is a razor-sharp eye for detail and an ability to make straightforward statements which nevertheless have the feel of great poetry, and ‘A Cat’ is no different in this regard from Thomas’s better-known poetry, such as ‘Adlestrop’ or ‘As the Team’s Head Brass’.

A Cat

She had a name among the children;
But no one loved though someone owned
Her, locked her out of doors at bedtime
And had her kittens duly drowned.

In Spring, nevertheless, this cat
Ate blackbirds, thrushes, nightingales,
And birds of bright voice and plume and flight,
As well as scraps from neighbours’ pails. Read the rest of this entry