The Lumber Room OL English Literature Analysis/Criticism
These are two important images that appear in the short story. Imagine a little child wearing boots that cut into his soft skin. Imagine his red, sore and hurting feet. Imagine his face. Imagine him going for an outing in the beach in those tight boots! Every step must have been painful! What is even more disturbing is that the children had told the aunt about this more than once, and she has failed to do anything much about it. Now, think about what this image tells you about the story?
Strawberry Jam is a delightful treat for a child. And we know that these children are deprived of such delights. The idea of strawberry jam for tea is a very exciting thing to them. However, they do not get to enjoy the four jams lying in the cupboard, guarded by the aunt.
Two Images. Bobby’s Boots and Strawberry Jam.
Bobby is suffering in his boots. According to Nicholas, the children had told the aunt twice about the boots being too tight. But she has not done anything to fix the issue. She is ignorant of their pain and suffering – it seems that she does not have much parental affection towards the children. Even though she is quick to punish them and actively humiliate and denigrate them, when it comes to showing compassion and taking care of them, she is passive. She turns a blind eye to their needs. She does not have intentions of taking good care of the children – her only concern is to make sure that they fear and obey her. She wants to spread her disconsolation to the children. It seems that she cannot understand the pain that Bobby is going through (or she simply doesn’t care). Therefore, we can s ay that she is Unempathetic, insensitive, callous, malicious, ignorant, unfeeling and harsh.
AUNT – We get to know that she has been keeping four jars of strawberry jam in the cupboard without letting the children enjoy it. This is her way of controlling the children. She seems to be full of animosity toward them. She is determined to make sure that the children do not get to have fun or to enjoy anything. The strawberry jam locked in the cupboard symbolizes how she denies them childhood joys and delights – this reveals her personality – she is vindictive and malicious. It is as if she is punishing the children for being children – for being full of life, joy, imagination and vigour – all of which she lacks. She wants to beat the above qualities out of them. She wants the children to become like her, and she wants them to be afraid of her – this way, they have to obey her. Even the strawberry Jam becomes a way of controlling the children.
NICHOLAS – Nicholas’ genius is on full display when he uses the knowledge about the Jam jars to manipulate the aunt.
‘When we asked aunt for strawberry jam yesterday she said there wasn’t any. I know there are four jars of it in the store cupboard, because I looked, and of course you know it’s there, but she doesn’t, because she said there wasn’t any. Oh, Devil, you have sold yourself!’
Nicholas is intellectually and imaginatively superior to the aunt and shrewdly stymies (traps) the aunt in a position where she is unable to manipulate Nicholas anymore without admitting that she lied. This shows us the audacity/ bravery/ courage and the mischievousness that defines Nicholas as well as his superior intelligence. It problematizes the Aunt’s proposition that she is an ‘older, wiser and better’ person. The author questions the notion of adults being smarter than children and shows how children are intelligent and creative in their own right, and that adults should not ever debilitate or underestimate their brilliance!