Animals are used symbolically, particularly in the bachelor's story. In the bachelor's story, he speaks of a park that children weren't allowed to go into except for one child who was exceptionally good. In this park, the bachelor notes that there were no sheep because the Queen believed her son would be killed by a sheep or a clock. The bachelor notes that, though there were no sheep, there were a lot of gray, black, and white pigs. The dark tone on the subject of sheep and unusually dark colors of the pigs show that Saki wanted to portray these animals in a negative light. These animals are similar in that they are animals that are kept in packs by humans and seen as unintelligent. Another animal that is focused on in Saki's tale are cows. In the beginning of the story, the children ask their aunt questions about why the cows graze in certain places and she is unable to come up with a satisfactory response. Again, Saki portrays animals that live in a pack and are controlled by humans. These animals symbolize the way adults in Edwardian England tried to raise children like stupid pack animals, often making choices for them that were irrational (like the Queen banning all sheep from the park) and unjustified (in parallel to the aunt failing to explain the cows' pasturing routine).
As stated above, animals are major vehicles of symbolism. Saki often builds meaning in his stories by combining and juxtaposing children and dangerous animals. The wolf in the bachelor's story hunted the young, "good" girl named Bertha and eventually ate her. This act of defiling a child who already satirized the aunt's story parallels the bachelor himself marring the innocence of the children on the train. The wolf can also be seen to represent the destruction of innocence in general.
The Train Car
The train car as a setting for the story symbolizes family and society as a whole. The adults are shut away with the children and tasked with raising them in a responsible way, and because the aunt and the bachelor do not agree on how to do this, the children are raised in a confusing, haphazard way. The events that go on in the train carriage seem inconsequential but both the aunt and the Bachelor realize that they may have lasting effects on the children. Furthermore, while the train carriage is moving quite fast in reality, the space inside the carriage seems static and even stifling, like progress in society.
Saki uses colors to symbolize traits and underscore the themes and morals of the story. This is especially true within the story told by the bachelor. When he describes the park, he makes it sound like a magical and wonderful place, paying special attention to the interesting, colorful animals: "There were ponds with gold and blue and green fish in them, and trees with beautiful parrots that said clever things at a moment's notice, and humming birds that hummed all the popular tunes of the day" (6). However, he also describes other animals in the park - pigs and a wolf - with dark, less pleasant colors: "there were lots of little pigs running all over the place [which were]... Black with white faces, white with black spots, black all over, grey with white patches, and some were white all over... [and a wolf was] mud-colour all over, with a black tongue and pale grey eyes that gleamed with unspeakable ferocity" (5-7). These animals represent dark reality in the satirical paradise set up in the story. The dark colors of the pigs and wolf show their relationship and the way it contrasts with the happy backdrop of a kingdom that rewards good children with walks in the park. Finally, Bertha's white dress symbolizes her innocence and purity, which was marred by the dark-colored wolf devouring her and leaving only the soiled clothes behind.
The bachelor's story is a satirical take on the aunt's. In the story, Bertha was a good child who had been given medals for her goodness and was allowed to walk in the kingdom's special park as another reward for her behavior. Because Bertha was proud of her goodness and wore the medals to the park, the wolf in the park was able to find her by the sound of their clinking and kill her, even when she was hidden in a bush where she could not have been seen or smelled. Thus, Bertha's medals symbolize both her goodness and her pride, both things which the bachelor exposes as not as simple or desirable as the aunt would like the children on the train to believe.
The Storyteller Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Storyteller is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
The aunt is a nameless character that Suki does not offer a description of. She accompanies her nephew and two nieces on a train ride. She is not very good with the children. All the kids are fairly small and their aunt is unable to capture their...
The children are fidgeting and moving around. The children are especially fond of asking questions beginning with "Why?"The younger of the two girls begins to recite the same line of a poem over and over loudly.