Sredni Vashtar

by Saki

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What can we learn about the relationship between the boy and the guardian in "Sredni Vashtar" by Saki?    

Like many of Saki's works, "Sredni Vashtar" is a story that satirizes social conventions and the upper-class of Edwardian England. In the story, Conradin and his guardian, Mrs. De Ropp are at odds with each other in everything from their viewpoints about religion to their thoughts on what constitutes respectability. The relationship between them is one where Conradin desperately seeks to escape from his guardian's control; for her part, Mrs. De Ropp is only too happy to thwart her young cousin's every whim and fancy. Indeed, both characters' actions towards one another illustrate an underlying hostility that originates from a lack of genuine affection between them.

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In the story, we learn that the relationship between Conradin and his guardian, Mrs. De Ropp, is fraught with tension and mutual dislike.

Conradin thinks of Mrs. De Ropp as a nemesis of sorts; for her part, Mrs. De Ropp views Conradin as an emcumbrance in her life. The conflict between Conradin and his guardian stems from the fact that both harbor different viewpoints about life, religion, and social obligations.

While Conradin pines for adventure and action, Mrs. De Ropp is prepared to thwart her young cousin's every inclination. In the story, Conradin adopts a polecat-ferret who he names Sredni Vashtar. He keeps the ferret stashed in an unused tool-shed, where he creates an imaginary world he revels in. In this world, Sredni Vashtar is a god who lays "some special stress on the fierce impatient side of things, as opposed to the Woman's religion, which, as far as Conradin could observe, went to great lengths in the contrary direction."

Conradin creates unique, pagan-themed ceremonies to worship his adored god; red flowers and scarlet berries are offered before Sredni Vashtar's altar in deference to this preferred deity. Conradin's actions are the only way the young boy can rebel against the restrictions placed upon him by his guardian. In portraying Conradin's lonely pagan world as a balm against an existence bereft of affection and love, Saki is satirizing the hypocrisies of the upper-classes during the Edwardian era. In Conradin's life, respectability and religion are a facade that obscures the true apathy and animosity between him and Mrs. De Ropp. Indeed, from Saki's prose, we learn that Conradin and his guardian are often engaged in a constant battle of the wills.

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