Conradin is a child who leads a terrible existence. Terminally ill,...
The ending of “Sredni Vashtar” is powerful in many ways. First, it is a very cathartic ending, where the reader can finally feel some vicarious relief through the eyes of the main character, 10 year-old Conradin.
Conradin is a child who leads a terrible existence. Terminally ill, unloved, and badly treated by his guardian, Conradin’s daily emotions shift, from hatred toward Mrs. De Ropp, to an intense fascination with the things that he conjures up in his imagination.
One of his most powerful ideas is about a ferret that he names Sredni Vashtar and that lives in a "disused toolshed" in a "dismal" forgotten corner of the "cheerless" garden overlooked by the "many windows" of his house. One day, out of "Heavens knows what material," the ferret becomes Conradin's god to whom he offers prayers and festival gifts of nutmeg.
After Mrs. De Ropp has the Houdan hen sold as a result of her noticing how much time Conradin spent in the toolshed, his prayers to the ferret-god change from giving praise to asking a "boon," a life-improving kindness, though not explained in detail:
Conradin had been wont to chant his praises, tonight be asked a boon.
"Do one thing for me, Sredni Vashtar."
The ending is powerful because it provides the cathartic, yet, tragic moment the main character has secretly prayed for. Another reason it is powerful is because the tragic end is presented with an ironic twist: the prayer fulfillment happens during a typical, daily moment in Conradin’s life, tea time.
Making himself toast, which was always forbidden by his guardian, Conradin enjoys this first taste of freedom while at the same time he:
….. listened to the noises and silences which fell in quick spasms beyond the dining-room door.
Even though both characters have animosity against one another, Conradin’s guardian is comparatively worse because she actually gets to be mean and careless toward him. Therefore, the narrative is partial to Conradin, and the reader waits for some sort of restitution at some point. This restitution is the key reason why the ending is so powerful.
Saki only suggests Conradin’s emotion at this point. It is clear from his actions, which Saki describes, that the boy's emotions are not what would be expected of a normal boy in a normal situation because he quietly and deliberately goes to tea.
Conradin fished a toasting-fork out of the sideboard drawer and proceeded to toast himself a piece of bread. And during the toasting of it and the buttering of it with much butter and the slow enjoyment of eating it, Conradin listened ... the loud foolish screaming of the maid,....
Conradin helping himself to another piece of toast while her body is being loudly mourned and carried into the house adds to the irony of the situation. Not only has finally avenged himself through karmic justice, but he finally gets the pleasure of enjoying an extra helping of toast, while those in the household believe that this will be a tragedy to the child.
"Whoever will break it to the poor child? I couldn't for the life of me!" exclaimed a shrill voice. And while they debated the matter among themselves, Conradin made himself another piece of toast.
The ending is powerful because it is cathartic, enigmatic and ironic.