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Nicholas: victor or victim?

Paper type: Essay
Pages: 4 (971 words)
Categories: Books And Reading, Literature
Downloads: 26
Views: 1

Although Nicholas is victimized sometimes, he does have many victories. Some are fortunate and some are minor, but he enjoys them all. Nicholas starts the day by contriving a victory. He proves the “older and wiser and better people” wrong by deliberately placing a frog in his bread-and-milk. He dwells on this victorious start to the day “with the insistence of a skilled tactician”, but keeps silent about his main victory. He played this practical joke in order to be excluded from a treat because he wants the other children out of the way when he tries to enter the lumber-room.

Nicholas’s aunt

His aunt does not know this and hopes that the happy mood of the children as they depart for Jagborough Cove will make Nicholas envious, but fortune does not favour her. One of the children scrapes her knee on the carriage step and cries. “How she did howl”, said Nicholas cheerfully.

His aunt tries to remove the smile from his face by telling him that the children will enjoy racing about on the “beautiful sands”. Nicholas denies this, observing that Bobby’s tight boots will prevent him from enjoying himself. The aunt angrily demands to know why Bobby hadn’t told her about his boots.

Nicholas says he told her twice, but, as often, she was not listening. Nicholas is running rings around the aunt and she knows it. In a desperate bid to regain the initiative, she imposes an additional punishment, banning him from the gooseberry garden. It appears that Nicholas’s insolence has got him into more trouble, but he turns this extra punishment to his own advantage. By loitering near the gooseberry garden, he convinces his aunt that he wishes to enter it, so she remains there on “sentry-duty” most of the afternoon. Meanwhile Nicholas slips into the lumber-room.

After a while the aunt begins to worry and she tries to trick Nicholas into revealing his whereabouts by claiming that she can see him. Nicholas knows that this is a desperate bluff and smiles victoriously to himself in the lumber-room. Deciding that Nicholas must have succeeded in entering the gooseberry garden, the aunt goes in search of him and falls into the rainwater tank. This is another stroke of luck for Nicholas and he capitalizes on it. By skillfully declining to rescue her, he leaves her trapped for thirty-five minutes. Events go from bad to worse for her.

The other children return and she learns that the “special treat” was a disaster. In her haste to arrange the trip she forgot to check the tide times. The tide was at its highest so there was no sands to play on. Moreover, Bobby’s tight boots put him in a foul mood so Nicholas’s prediction was correct. The aunt’s punishments have backfired and, ironically, the intended victim has enjoyed himself more that anyone. Nicholas’s most important victory is getting into the lumber-room and having his imagination stimulated, although he may not be fully aware of its significance.

The lumber-room

The lumber-room is full of “objects of delight and interest” that make it a refreshing contrast with the house, which is “rather bare and cheerless”. It is a “storehouse of unimagined treasures”, compared with which even the gooseberry garden is “a stale delight, a mere maternal pleasure”. Nicholas finds many “wonderful things for the eye to feast on”. The metaphor indicates that his imagination has lacked nourishment. His attention is caught by a tapestry fire-screen that shows a hunting scene. “To Nicholas it was a living, breathing story.”

Saki conveys Nicholas’s fascination by using direct questions and making him ignorant of perspective. He sits “for many golden minutes” considering the possible outcomes of the hunting scene. The metaphor shows the value and quality of Nicholas’s imaginative engagement. Moments later Nicolas is rapt again. Opening “a large square book with plain black covers”, he finds many colour illustrations of exotic birds- “a whole portrait gallery of undreamed-of creatures”. As he examines the “colouring” of a Mandarin duck, he finds himself “assigning a life-history to it.”

These imaginative responses have enriched his experience and made him alert and curious. His pulse seems to be beating faster now, for the quality of his life has improved. Feeding his imagination in the lumber-room is Nicholas’s most important victory, but the one he enjoys most is refusing to help his aunt out of the rain-water tank. He relishes this because he gives her a dose of her own medicine and exposes her as a liar. He does it in such a clever way that she cannot punish him.

When she orders him to fetch a ladder, Nicholas pointedly reminds her that he is barred from the gooseberry garden, so obliging his aunt to make a concession. His claim that she may be the Evil One tempting him to be disobedient is revealingly dismissed as “nonsense”, but Nicholas decides, for once, to resist temptation and be virtuous. He then appears to falter, asking “innocently” if there will be strawberry jam for tea. Seeing her chance, the aunt says there will be, though she “privately” resolves that Nicholas will not get any. This characteristically spiteful decision makes the reader fear that Nicholas is about to be tricked.

However, he was only pretending to be gullible and now that the aunt has taken the bait she finds herself trapped by Nicholas’s ingenious logic: he proves that the voice is the Evil One’s and therefore refuses help. Nicholas has used the device of the Evil One to avoid accusing his aunt directly, but the implications of his case are clear to all parties and it is she who has “sold” herself. She cannot punish a virtuous boy and disputing his care would involve humiliating admissions and further loss of face. The adult has been outwitted and exposed by the underdog.

Cite this essay

Nicholas: victor or victim?. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/nicholas-victor-victim-5041-new-essay

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