The Storyteller

by Saki

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What is the conflict in the story "The Storyteller" by Saki?

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The first conflict in the story exists between the aunt and the three children, who are boisterous, disobedient, and extremely annoying. Despite her numerous attempts to distract and silence her nephew and nieces, the children refuse to settle down and expect their aunt to entertain them. In an attempt to quiet and please the children, the aunt tells them a mundane, moralistic tale, which is boring and dull.

Another conflict exists between the children and the passenger. Similarly to the aunt, the passenger is also extremely annoyed by the loud, active children who cannot sit still or remain quiet during the ride. The passenger begins to stare and make eye contact with the aunt in hopes of influencing her to intervene and silence the children.

The other conflict in the story exists between the passenger and the aunt. The passenger is upset at the aunt because she lacks the ability to settle the children. He is also disheartened and bored by her moralistic story, which is ineffective and unoriginal. After listening to her story about a good girl who is saved from the mad bull, the passenger intervenes and begins telling his own story. His story entertains the children. The nature of the story challenges the aunt's moralistic and religious ideals when the good girl is eventually killed by a wolf. The conflict within the passenger's story is, then, between a good girl and a menacing wolf. Following the story, the aunt proceeds to criticize the passenger for telling such an "improper" tale to impressionable children before he leaves the carriage.

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In the short story "The Storyteller" by Saki, an aunt is traveling with three boisterous children in the same carriage as a stranger, a man who is described only as a bachelor. The aunt first attempts to distract the children by drawing their attention to things outside the window. When she is unsuccessful at this, she tells them a short and rather boring story. The bachelor in turn tells them an unconventional but much more detailed and interesting story, prompting them to remark that it is the best story they have ever heard.

Conflicts in a story are the problems or opposition that characters face. These problems can involve characters in opposition to each other, characters against nature, characters against society, or sometimes characters in opposition to aspects of themselves.

There are several instances of conflict in "The Storyteller." The first conflict presented is that of the aunt versus the children. She tries to control them but fails. Their questions point out the obvious flaws in her story, and their analysis is that her story is stupid.

The aunt's inability to control the children provokes the next conflict, which is between the aunt and the bachelor. The bachelor is also scornful of the aunt's storytelling abilities, so he tells his own story in part to show the aunt how it should be done. He succeeds excellently in holding the attention of the children, but he causes...

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the aunt to exclaim that his story is improper to tell to young children.

The third instance of conflict is within the story that the bachelor tells. His story is about a girl named Bertha, who wanders into a prince's park. She encounters a hungry wolf, and the conflict is between Bertha and the wolf. The wolf eventually devours her.

We can see, then, that the main conflict in "The Storyteller" is between the aunt and the bachelor, and it involves their different storytelling techniques and moral beliefs. The conflict between the aunt and the children sets up the main conflict. The conflict between Bertha and the wolf exists in the story-within-a-story that the bachelor tells.

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The conflict between the aunt and the children annoys the bachelor with whom they share the train carriage, thereby creating another conflict between the aunt and the bachelor.

More specifically, the conflicts caused by the aunt's attitude toward the children and her unrealistic expectations of their behavior annoy the bachelor. He empathizes with the children so much that he tells them a story that contradicts all of the aunt's messaging about good behavior. Though the aunt's messaging is completely ineffective, she feels offended by the bachelor's contribution to the children's learning, which leads to their negative exchange at the end of the story.

The children and the bachelor both sense a sort of incompetence in the aunt, who is not characterized as a clever woman who understands children. This intuitive knowledge on the part of the bachelor and the children feeds the conflict they all experience with the aunt. If the aunt had a better sense of humor or a more thoughtful manner or simply a basic understanding of a child's mind, perhaps all of these conflicts could have been avoided.

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The first conflict is between the aunt and the bachelor. The aunt gives the children a mundane, boring story. She is careful to make her story "proper." Thus, it lacks anything salacious, violent, or anything that suggests improper behavior. The bachelor counters with his own story. His story begins much like the aunt's story. It is about a girl who is quite proper. But the bachelor introduces the girl (Bertha) as "horribly good." This oxymoron draws the children in. Given the aunt's strict ideas about a "proper" story, she probably does not like the use of "horrible" and "good" in the same description. The bachelor ends the story with a violent act. The wolf eats Bertha. Note that Bertha's medals of goodness give her away. The bachelor's story (within Saki's own story) suggests that being too good is not always preferable. This is certainly the case with using a story to entertain children. If the story is all about goodness and proper behavior, children are less likely to be interested. The bachelor adds that he was able to keep the children quiet and interested, while the aunt was unable to do this. 

So, this conflict is about the best ways to instruct children and/or keep their attention. The story suggests that interesting and exciting tales and strategies are better for entertaining and educating children. 

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