Sredni Vashtar

by

Saki

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Sredni Vashtar Character Analysis

Sredni Vashtar is a polecat-ferret that a local butcher boy smuggled into Mrs. De Ropp’s shed in exchange for some silver from Conradin. While Sredni Vashtar is a real ferret, in Conradin’s imagination he’s also a pagan god, who inspires elaborate rituals of devotion, including special festivals and chants. Sredni Vashtar has sharp, dangerous teeth, and as a result must be kept locked up in a hutch (a kind of cage). The wild Sredni Vashtar represents the exact opposite of the prim, traditionally religious Mrs. De Ropp. Several times in the story, Conradin prays for Sredni Vashtar to “do one thing for me,” presumably to thwart his oppressive cousin. Ultimately, Sredni Vashtar kills the short-sighted Mrs. Ropp, blurring the line between imagination and reality by seemingly answering Conradin’s prayers. It’s possible to argue that, just as Mrs. De Ropp seems to stand-in for respectable British Imperial society, Sredni Vashtar functions as a kind of stand-in for the people, cultures, and religions colonized by the Empire. By today’s standards, such a characterization would be considered racist in a variety of ways—a wild, dark-skinned animal serving as a symbol for not just one colonized people but for all colonized people. Within the story, the implication of Sredni Vashtar killing the proper but cruel and overbearing Mrs. De Ropp can be taken as signaling a pessimistic belief on the part of Saki that British Imperial rule as practiced was likely to foster revolt that would be the Empire’s demise.

Sredni Vashtar Quotes in Sredni Vashtar

The Sredni Vashtar quotes below are all either spoken by Sredni Vashtar or refer to Sredni Vashtar. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Imagination vs. Reality Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Cambridge University Press edition of Sredni Vashtar published in 2018.
Sredni Vashtar Quotes

And one day, out of Heaven knows what material, he spun the beast a wonderful name, and from that moment it grew into a god and a religion. The Woman indulged in religion once a week at a church near by and took Conradin with her, but to him the church service was an alien rite in the House of Rimmon. Every Thursday, in the dim and musty silence of the tool-shed, he worshipped with mystic and elaborate ceremonial before the wooden hutch where dwelt Sredni Vashtar, the great ferret.

Related Characters: Conradin, Sredni Vashtar, Mrs. De Ropp
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

The Houdan hen was never drawn into the cult of Sredni Vashtar. Conradin had long ago settled that she was an Anabaptist. He did not pretend to have the remotest knowledge as to what an Anabaptist was, but he privately hoped that it was dashing and not very respectable. Mrs De Ropp was the ground plan on which he based and detested all respectability.

Related Characters: Conradin, Sredni Vashtar, Mrs. De Ropp
Related Symbols: Houdan Hen
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

‘Do one thing for me, Sredni Vashtar.’

Related Characters: Conradin (speaker), Sredni Vashtar
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:

And presently his eyes were rewarded; out through that doorway came a long, low, yellow-and-brown beast, with eyes a-blink at the waning daylight, and dark wet stains around the fur of jaws and throat.

Related Characters: Conradin, Sredni Vashtar, Mrs. De Ropp
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:
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Sredni Vashtar Character Timeline in Sredni Vashtar

The timeline below shows where the character Sredni Vashtar appears in Sredni Vashtar. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Sredni Vashtar
Imagination vs. Reality Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
British Colonialism Theme Icon
...it that way. One day, Conradin comes up with a miraculous name for the creature: Sredni Vashtar , the great ferret. Mrs. De Ropp is religious and takes him to church once... (full context)
Imagination vs. Reality Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Every Thursday, Conradin worships Sredni Vashtar with an elaborate ceremony, involving red flowers when they are blooming and scarlet berries during... (full context)
Imagination vs. Reality Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
In Conradin’s imagination, the Houdan hen doesn’t join the cult of Sredni Vashtar . He decides she is an Anabaptist. Conradin has no idea what an Anabaptist is,... (full context)
Imagination vs. Reality Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
That evening in the shed, Conradin changes the way he worships the “hutch-god,” Sredni Vashtar . Instead of chanting praises, he asks for a favor. Conradin does not say aloud... (full context)
Imagination vs. Reality Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
British Colonialism Theme Icon
...every evening in the toolshed, Conradin repeats the same prayer: “Do one thing for me, Sredni Vashtar .” Mrs. De Ropp notices that his visits to the tool shed haven’t stopped, even... (full context)
Imagination vs. Reality Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
British Colonialism Theme Icon
Conradin watches Mrs. De Ropp enter the shed. He imagines her opening the door of Sredni Vashtar ’s hutch and peering down with her short-sighted eyes into the thick straw, where the... (full context)
Imagination vs. Reality Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
British Colonialism Theme Icon
...smile on her face, and then an hour or two later, the gardener will carry Sredni Vashtar out of the hutch—no longer a god, just a simple brown ferret. Conradin believes his... (full context)
Imagination vs. Reality Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
British Colonialism Theme Icon
Feeling the sting of defeat, Conradin begins to chant a hymn for the endangered Sredni Vashtar . The chant is a battle song about how Sredni Vashtar goes forth, with bloody... (full context)