Tobermory Literary Elements


Short Story, Period Fiction

Setting and Context

Lady Blemley's house, Edwardian England

Narrator and Point of View

Omniscient Third-Person Narrator

Tone and Mood

The tone of the story is both comedic and violent. A talking cat alone is comedic and absurd, but Tobermory's particular sarcasm and biting commentary give his comedy a dark edge. Plans to poison the cat and arguments among the characters contribute to the violent tone of the story.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Tobermory (protagonist); Party Guests (Antagonists)

Major Conflict

Once Tobermory learns how to talk he begins disclosing the secrets of everyone in attendance at the party.


The guests are initially amused that Tobermory can speak, but are later threatened when he begins sharing their secrets. When Tobermory disappears armed with the ability to communicate all the scandals in which the guests are involved, they begin to worry and plot a way to permanently silence Tobermory.


Mrs. Cornett advises Mr. Appin to limit his experiments to elephants in the zoo since they are more confined and less likely to blabber about others' private activities. This foreshadows Mr. Appin's death, which occurs while he attempts to follow Ms. Cornett's advice and teach elephants human speech.




"An archangel ecstatically proclaiming the Millennium, and then finding that it clashed unpardonably with Henley and would have to be indefinitely postponed, could hardly have felt more crestfallen than Cornelius Appin at the reception of his wonderful achievement" (96)

There are two allusions in this sentence. The first is an allusion to a Christian interpretation that the Millennium is the period of one thousand years when Christ will rule on earth. The second, the Henley, is a rowing competition or Regatta that began in 1839 and took place on the River Thames. In this sentence Saki uses each allusion to compare Mr. Appin's disappointment in discovering that the guests want to destroy his only successful subject to the disappointment an archangel would feel if he were told that Christ's reign would have to be rescheduled due to a rowing competition. The comparison is likely a bit of hyperbole, but it is consistent with Saki's dark humor in Tobermory.

"'You know, the one they call 'The Envy of Sisyphus,' because it goes quite nicely up-hill if you push it'" (94)

Sisyphus is a character in greek mythology who must eternally push a large boulder up a hill, watch it roll down, and begin the process again as punishment for his deceit and cleverness. Saki makes this allusion when describing Lady Blemley's defunct car because, like the boulder, it can only go uphill when pushed.


The story begins, "It was a chill, rain-washed afternoon of a late August day" and continues by describing the "blackness of the season" (91). At its start, then, the imagery contributes to a somewhat gloomy and grey setting which relates to the way in which the estate later becomes like a prison to the guests. The imagery of Bertie van Tahn becoming "a dull shade of gardenia white" both illustrates the shock the guests experience when they discover Tobermory's ability to sully their names and also relates that feeling to an element of nature.





Metonymy and Synecdoche



Tobermory is the best example of personification in this story because he is literally an animal endowed with the human ability of speech.