What is the style of writing used in the short story "The Lumber Room"?

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liesljohnson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Throughout Saki's "The Lumber Room," the writing style is humorously formal, with precise diction and flowing sentences filled with clauses, colons, and semicolons that make for long, thorough explanations. This exacting, serious style provides humor by contrasting with the subject matter. "The Lumber Room" is a story about children misbehaving before they go on an outing. One boy, Nicholas, sneaks into the lumber room to play there. When his aunt accidentally falls into a rain-water tank, the mischievous Nicholas won't let her out. (A kitchen maid gets her out of there after about half an hour.)

Let's take a closer look to see some examples of the writing style.

Examples of humorously precise and formal diction that belies the silly, light nature of the subject include:

1. Nicholas's face isn't "stubborn," it's got "considerable obstinacy."

2. The kids who plop frogs into their breakfast dishes are guilty of "depravity."

3. The aunt caught in the rain-water tank has endured an "unmerited detention."

Examples of long, flowing, formal sentences that also provide a contrast for the light playfulness of the story:

1. Instead of saying, "Nicholas made his aunt think he was going somewhere else, then he sneaked upstairs," the author writes, "Having thoroughly confirmed and fortified her suspicions, Nicholas slipped back into the house and rapidly put into execution a plan of action that had long germinated in his brain."

2. Instead of writing, "Nicholas opened a plain black book to see pictures of bright birds," Saki writes "Less promising in appearance was a large square book with plain black covers; Nicholas peeped into it, and, behold, it was full of coloured pictures of birds."

3. Instead of writing, "Nicholas kept thinking about the scene on the tapestry," the author says, "As for Nicholas, he, too, was silent, in the absorption of one who has much to think about; it was just possible, he considered, that the huntsman would escape with his hounds while the wolves feasted on the stricken stag."

Read the study guide:
The Lumber Room

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