What symbols are apparent in "The Storyteller" by Saki?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Satirizing the foibles of the Edwardian Age, Saki exposes the oppressive rituals and follies of the society of his time. Representative of this strict adherence to the mores of Edwardian society is the aunt of "The Storyteller," whose insipid and "deplorably uninteresting story" with its traditional moral does little to interest or inspire the children to whom she recounts it.  Proving her wrong that it is "difficult...to tell stories that children can both understand and appreciate," Saki's bachelor creates a tale about a "horribly good" little girl that elicits excitement and compliments from the children.

An imaginative tale, the bachelor's story also employs symbols, but in a satirical manner:

  1. The medals that the girl receives for obedience, punctuality, and good behavior become her nemesis rather than her reward.
  2. The absence of sheep in the park (whom the mother fears may kill the Prince) indicates that followers are detrimental, rather than beneficial to society.
  3. The absence of a clock also indicates that strict adherence to schedules and time destroys creativity and imagination.
  4. Pigs eat all the flowers, destroying beauty and consuming what is aesthetic.
  5. The wolf, much like the wolves of Jack London's Naturalistic tales, represents an aspect of the world, "impervious to reason," that is hostile and unfriendly to human survival that exists in nature and in man. Often this aspect is the innate cruelty in man.

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