Sredni Vashtar Questions and Answers
by Saki

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How does the writer effectively portray Conradin's feelings in "Sredni Vashtar"?

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In this, one of Saki's most enigmatic short stories, Conradin is a child who is emotionally neglected, not just because he is an orphan, but also because his guardian and cousin, Mrs. De Ropp, is clearly tired of him. Conradin is also sickly.

Conradin was ten years old, and the doctor had pronounced his professional opinion that the boy would not live another five years.

This basically shows that his life, as short as it is and will be, has been a pretty rotten deal for him.

The author effectively portrays Conradin's feelings by illustrating the way that he visualized life, as a whole. Basically, Conradin sees very little positive in his life and, as a result, he resorts to his imagination to make something out of what he does see. In Conradin's world

...three-fifths of the world [...] are necessary and disagreeable and real; the other two-fifths, in perpetual antagonism to the foregoing, were summed up in himself and his imagination.

Another way that the author effectively conveys the emotions of the boy is by presenting his situation. His life is extremely lonely, boring, and isolated. He needs his imagination essentially in order not to go insane...but, does he?

When he singlehandedly transforms the reality of religious worship, the only thing he does in common with his cousin, into his own version, he is basically showing signs that something is not well in his mind. The use of the ferret as a symbol of adoration shows a misplaced need for hope, and a misguided hunger for faith.

It is one thing to use the imagination to create one's own gods and angels. It is a very different thing to replace the gods and angels with substitutes that clearly do not possess any powers. This is how Conradin shows that he has lost all hope in the world around him and, as a result, he will replace and switch everything all around.

All of this is done through both direct and indirect characterization. In the direct characterization, Saki describes these emotions exactly as they occur in Conradin's life. In indirect characterization , he illustrates the child's feelings through his...

(The entire section contains 742 words.)

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