Describe and comment on the aunt's character in ‘The Lumber Room’ and how she contributes towards themes of the story.  

Asked on by gajaman

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jlbh | College Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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The aunt is a kill-joy, a spoil-sport. We are not told this directly, but can infer it from her of habit of devising 'treats' for the children, for the sole purpose of excluding one or all of them as a punishment. She presumably does this in order better to assert her authority. From a child's point of view, she is an infuriating grown-up - she often doesn't listen when the children tell her things, and changes the subject when challenged.

We are told that she is a 'woman of few ideas, with immense powers of concentration' - a description which nails her as obsessive and small-minded. Nicholas is self-willed, stubborn and equally obsessive (about getting into the Lumber Room, and about thwarting the aunt) but he's a small boy. The aunt's obsession (with outwitting Nicholas) is revealed as actually very childish.

Nicholas is the 'hero' of this subtly subversive story. From the point of view of the narrative, she is the 'foil' against which Nicholas's character emerges - a boy of many ideas, imagination and quick wits. We applaud rather than condemn Nicholas's disobedience and his triumph in this war of wills, mostly because the aunt's behaviour is revealed as absurd, and she appears to deserve her 'punishment'.


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