After Governor Georgi Abashwili is overthrown by the Fat Prince, Georgi’s wife Natella is urged to flee the city before the rioting peasants, or the newly-in-power Fat Prince, can get to her and harm her. Her servants urge her that time is of the essence, but Natella is less concerned with fleeing for her life than she is with ensuring her prized possessions come along with her. Of particular concern are a pair of saffron-colored boots, which she has forgotten to pack in her overflowing trunks. Natella orders the servant-girl holding her son, Michael, to put the child down and run inside to collect the boots. While the servant-girl is in the palace, Natella notices that the sky has turned red with fire from the nearing riots, and is so struck by fear that she allows herself to be swept away from the palace on horseback, leaving her child behind. The saffron boots symbolize Natella’s vanity, narcissism, and corruption. She is so disconnected from what matters, and so obsessed with the trappings of her wealth and privilege, that she abandons her own child over a silly pair of shoes. Later on in the play, during the trial, Azdak asks Grusha, who raised Michael, why she would not want to surrender her son so that he can grow up in the lap of luxury. Grusha, silently, considers that if Michel “had golden shoes to wear he’d be cruel as a bear.” Thus, the saffron boots appear again as a symbol of corruption and narcissism, and Grusha fears that her child could forget all that she has taught him. In a play which is deeply concerned with the power of wealth and luxury to corrupt people, the saffron boots serve as a physical symbol of corruption.
The Saffron Boots Quotes in The Caucasian Chalk Circle
AZDAK: “I’ve noticed you have a soft spot for justice. I don’t believe he’s your child, but if he were yours, woman, wouldn’t you want him to be rich? You’d only have to say he wasn’t’ yours, and he’d have a palace and horses in his stable and beggars on his doorstep and soldiers in his service. What do you say—don’t you want him to be rich?”
Grusha is silent.
ARKADI: “Hear now what the angry girl thought but did not say: Had he golden shoes to wear, he’d be cruel as a bear. Evil would his life disgrace. He’d laugh in my face.”