The Unbearable Bassington Analysis


Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Bassington house

Bassington house. London home of Francesca Bassington, whose house is hers only until Emmeline Chetrof marries. Thus, it is not truly a home, and its very impermanence drives Francesca’s actions and suggests the shallowness of the society in which she lives. Francesca’s only visitors seem to be her son and her brother—one more indication that the house will disappear. The furnishings that Francesca prizes she has acquired mostly by chance; her “delicious bronze Fremiet” she buys with winnings from horse racing; some Dresden figurines are given to her by an admirer; other Dresden figurines she acquires with bridge winnings. There are other things she values, in part because they come from marvelous, mysterious places, but above all because they are somehow connected with her own history. Her prize possession, the “Van der Meulen” painting, turns out to be a fake.


*London. Great Britain’s chief city, in which almost all the action in the novel takes place. The people inhabiting Saki’s London are strictly upper middle class, with an occasional member of the lower aristocracy. Francesca plays bridge with her female friends at various houses, especially Serena Golackly’s, all of which are clearly in the West End of London, where the upper classes live. Besides bridge, the main purpose of these parties is gossip, of a petty and nasty sort.

Elaine’s garden-park...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Baring, Maurice. Introduction to The Unbearable Bassington, by Saki. New York: Viking, 1928. Thematic analysis of the work; calls it “an ironic tragedy on a high level.” Believes Saki possessed a stoic view of life, recognizing the fragility of human relationships but resigned to struggle for the preservation of a civilized society.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Twentieth Century British Literature. Vol. 4. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. Collection of excerpts from reviews by eminent literary critics of the early twentieth century. Allows readers to place The Unbearable Bassington in the context of Saki’s career, and relates it to his short stories; also comments on the quality of satire in the novel.

Gillen, Charles H. H. H. Munro (Saki). New York: Twayne, 1969. General survey of the novelist’s career as a historian, journalist, short-story writer, novelist, and playwright. Surveys the critical reception of The Unbearable Bassington; explains how the novel summarizes themes present throughout Saki’s writings and discusses his handling of issues involving sexuality.

Langguth, A. J. Saki: A Life of Hector Hugh Munro. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1981. Well researched and well written biography integrating literary analysis with details of Saki’s life. A chapter on The Unbearable Bassington reviews biographical genesis of the work and comments on characterization. Judges the novel a mixed success.

Spears, George James. The Satire of Saki. New York: Exposition Press, 1963. Demonstrates how Saki uses a number of satiric techniques in the novel to explore the “will to destruction” residing in humankind; notes how he manages to evoke sympathy for the mother in the story.