Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Wet Saturday” is one of a group of stories in which John Collier satirizes social institutions, including marriage. Marriage, like the professions of law and medicine, tends, in Collier’s view, to be governed by conventions and acquisitiveness, not by integrity and concern. In “Wet Saturday,” the family’s last name and the father’s behavior alike suggest that this is a family that carries the belief that an Englishman’s home is his castle to an insane extreme.

Essentially, this tightly knit but unhappy family is waging war against the community in which it resides. Princey despises his family; in him, Collier has deftly sketched the lines of a man who deeply resents adult responsibility and who yearns for the privileged world of childhood that he attempts to re-create. Despite his domestic emotions, however, Princey will defend his obviously deluded daughter, even if her defense allows her the freedom to prey on the community in the future.

Every detail of the story points to the family’s narrow self-interest. A young man of God eagerly on the brink of success and marriage is, to this family, no more than refuse to be crammed down a sewer; at no point in the story does any member of the family utter any word of concern or remorse at his death. In the family’s treatment of Smollett, the members give ample evidence that they honor no promises and no bonds of friendship; Smollett may well hang for a crime that he did not commit and that he vowed to conceal. The family, though, has gained its end: Its standing in the community will remain untainted. The Princey family, then, provides a typical Collier microcosm of an acquisitive and power-hungry society at its very worst.