The story “Princess September”, by Somerset Maugham, highlights the contrast between the fate of Princess September, who valued love and freedom, and her sisters, who were sceptical and closed-minded. Ultimately, Princess September’s openness and love brought her happiness and beauty, while her sisters’ closed hearts led to an unpleasant destiny.
“Princess September” tells the tale of the King and Queen of Siam’s daughters, focusing on Princess September. The King gives his daughters parrots, but when September’s parrot dies, she befriends a singing bird. Despite her sisters’ scepticism, the bird’s freedom becomes crucial. Princess September sacrifices her desire to keep him, allowing the bird to fly free. In contrast, her sisters, closed-minded and unkind, face an unpleasant fate. The story explores themes of love, freedom, and the consequences of open-mindedness versus closed-mindedness.
The Gift of Parrots:
On the King’s birthday, he gives each daughter a green parrot. The princesses teach the parrots to talk, but September’s parrot dies, leading to her deep sadness.
The Singing Bird:
One day, a little bird visits September and sings a beautiful song, comforting her. The bird offers to replace her parrot, emphasizing its better singing ability. September happily accepts, and the bird sings her to sleep.
The Little Bird’s Arrival:
The next day, the little bird stays with September, singing and becoming a constant companion. The Maids of Honour are surprised by its beautiful songs, and September decides to introduce the bird to her sisters and parents.
The King and Queen’s Reaction:
The King and Queen are delighted with the little bird’s singing, praising it over the parrots that only repeat phrases. The King shares his weariness of hearing repetitive phrases, drawing a parallel to his Councillors.
The Happy Days:
The Princesses and the little bird enjoy happy days, with the bird singing different songs for each sister. However, the parrots and the sisters face criticism from the King for their repetitive ways.
The Sisters’ Gift:
Feeling sorry for September after her parrot’s death, the eight sisters decide to buy her a green and yellow parrot. Unaware of the little bird, they assume she needs a replacement.
The Little Bird’s Freedom:
September, realizing the little bird is unhappy in the cage, sets it free. The bird promises to return and flies away, symbolizing the importance of freedom in love.
The Sisters’ Mockery:
The eight sisters mock September, claiming the little bird won’t return. However, the bird does return, bringing joy to September with its songs and companionship.
The Sisters’ Unpleasant Fate:
While September becomes beautiful and marries the King of Cambodia, her sisters, who kept their windows shut, face an unpleasant fate, emphasizing the consequences of closed-mindedness.
“Princess September” explores themes of love, freedom, sacrifice, and the consequences of open-mindedness versus closed-mindedness, portraying a journey of growth and maturity for the central
- September: The name given to the youngest daughter.
- Peculiar Habit: Unusual behavior or custom; in this context, the King’s practice of giving gifts on his birthday instead of receiving them.
- ‘God Save the King’: A phrase that the parrots were taught to say, expressing loyalty and well-wishing to the King.
- ‘Pretty Polly’: A common phrase taught to parrots, showcasing their ability to mimic human speech.
- Oriental Languages: Languages originating from the East or Asia; in this context, the parrots could say ‘Pretty Polly’ in seven different Oriental languages.
- Flood of Tears: A sudden and intense outburst of crying and sadness.
- Maids of Honour: Female attendants or servants serving the princess, responsible for trying to comfort her.
- Stuff and Nonsense: Dismissive expression used by the Queen to convey disbelief or disregard for Princess September’s distress.
- Go to Bed Without Any Supper: A form of punishment suggested by the Queen in response to the princess’s tears.
- Beautiful Song: The melody sung by the little bird, describing scenes from the King’s garden, including a lake, willow trees, and goldfish.
- Lake in the King’s Garden: A body of water situated in the royal garden.
- Willow Trees: Trees with long, drooping branches often associated with poetic and peaceful imagery.
- Goldfish: Colorful fish that are often kept in ornamental ponds.
- Glided In and Out: Movement of the goldfish through the branches of the willow trees.
- Reflected in It: The reflection of the willow trees and goldfish in the still water of the lake.
- Not Crying Any More: The little bird’s song had a soothing effect on Princess September, alleviating her sadness.
- Forgot That She Had No Supper: The beautiful song made the princess forget about her hunger or the fact that she was denied supper.
- Bow: A gesture of nodding the head or bending the body forward as a sign of respect or greeting.
- Better Voice: The little bird claims to have a superior singing voice compared to the parrot.
- Hopped: jumped
- Proud and Happy: Princess September felt a sense of satisfaction and joy.
- Perch: A place for a bird to alight or rest; in this case, the first finger of the princess’s right hand.
- Delighted: pleased and happy.
- Sentiment is Admirable: The King appreciates the sentiment behind teaching parrots to say ‘God save the king.’
- Tired of Hearing People Say ‘God Save the King’: The Queen expresses weariness with the repetitive phrase and suggests it might be tiring for the King too.
- Councillors: Advisors to the King, who, according to the King, express themselves in various ways without conveying meaningful information.
- Vexed: The princesses were irritated or annoyed.
- Glum: The parrots appeared sad or depressed.
- Ran Through All the Rooms of the Palace: Princess September moved quickly through the various rooms of the royal residence.
- Lark: A type of bird known for its melodious song.
- Put Their Heads Together: Collaborated or discussed privately.
- Thank You for Nothing: A dismissive response from Princess September, indicating she is not interested in the proposed gift.
- Absurd: The princesses find it ridiculous or unreasonable for Princess September to refuse a new parrot.
- Raised Their Eyebrows: Expressing surprise or skepticism, often used to convey doubt or disapproval.
- Father-in-law: The term used humorously by Princess September to refer to the little bird’s whereabouts.
- Run Any Risks: Advising Princess September to avoid potential dangers or uncertainties.
- Pop Him into the Cage: The advice given to Princess September to confine the little bird in a cage upon his return.
- Safety First: Emphasizing the importance of prioritizing safety and caution.
- Ominously: In a foreboding or threatening manner, suggesting potential danger or negative consequences.
- Left September Very Uneasy: The departure of her sisters and their warnings left Princess September feeling uneasy or anxious.
- Hawks and Snares: References to potential dangers for the little bird, such as being preyed upon by hawks or caught in traps (snares).
- Take a Fancy to Somebody Else: The fear that the little bird might develop a liking for someone else.
- Alighted So Softly: The little bird landed quietly and gently on Princess September’s shoulder.
- Wondered What on Earth Had Become of You: Expressing concern and curiosity about the little bird’s whereabouts.
- Anxious: Feeling worried or concerned.
- Unfortunate Remark: The little bird’s comment about the party creates an unfortunate situation for Princess September.
- Heart Go Thump Against Her Chest: Describing the sudden and strong beating of Princess September’s heart, possibly due to shock or realization.
- Made Up Her Mind: Princess September decided firmly.
- Take No More Risks: Resolving not to expose herself to potential dangers or uncertainties regarding the little bird.
- Put Up Her Hand: Raised her hand in a gesture, possibly to indicate a decision or signal to the little bird.
- Popped: Placed
- Could Think of Nothing to Say: The little bird was so surprised that he couldn’t find words to respond immediately.
- Hopped Up to the Ivory Perch: The little bird moved or jumped up to a perch made of ivory inside the cage.
- What Is the Joke?: The little bird is puzzled and inquires about the reason behind Princess September’s actions.
- Prowling: Moving secretly
- Ate a Very Good Supper: The little bird consumed a satisfying evening meal.
- Dawn Broke: The early morning light appeared.
- A Good Fly While the Dew Is Still on the Ground: The little bird expresses a desire to fly when the morning dew is present.
- Let Me Out, Let Me Out: The little bird insists on being released from the cage, expressing a desire for freedom.
- Beat Against the Door: The little bird struck or hit the cage door in an attempt to open it.
- The Eight Princesses: Referring to Princess September’s sisters, who previously advised her to cage the bird.
- Forget He Had Ever Been Free: The Princesses suggest that the little bird will eventually forget about its previous freedom.
- Old Silly: Affectionate or teasing term used to address someone in a lighthearted manner.
- Fond of You: Princess September expresses her affection for the little bird as the reason for putting him in the cage.
- Piece of Sugar: Princess September offers a treat to the bird as an incentive for singing.
- Never Sang a Note: The little bird refused to sing.
- Sulking: Silent and not speaking because you are angry and unhappy.
- See the Trees, Lake, and Green Rice Growing: The little bird expresses a desire to experience the
- Very Ungrateful: The sisters suggest that the bird’s refusal to comply with Princess September’s intentions would be ungrateful.
- Serve Him Right: The sisters imply that if the bird dies due to obstinacy, it would be a fitting consequence and Princess September would be better off without him.
- Startled Cry: A surprised and alarmed exclamation from Princess September.
- Little Heart Was Beating Still: Princess September confirmed that the bird was alive, feeling its heartbeat.
- Her Tears Fell on the Little Bird: Illustrating Princess September’s emotional distress and care for the bird.
- Bars of the Cage Were No Longer Around Him: Symbolizing the removal of restrictions or confinement.
- Cannot Sing Unless I’m Free: The bird expresses its need for freedom to be able to sing.
- Then Take Your Freedom: Princess September decides to prioritize the bird’s happiness over her desire to keep him confined.
- Shut You in a Golden Cage: Reference to the earlier golden cage in which the bird was kept.
- Love You Enough to Let You Be Happy in Your Own Way: Princess September acknowledges the importance of the bird’s happiness and freedom.
- Threw Open the Window: Princess September creates an opportunity for the bird to leave the room by opening the window.
- Sill: Window ledge.
- Shook Himself a Little: The bird makes a small movement, possibly indicating a sense of freedom.
- Will: Desire & wish
- Shall Always Come Back: The bird promises a return, expressing a lasting bond with Princess September.
- Never Forget You: The bird assures that it will retain memories of Princess September.
- Good Gracious Me: An exclamation used to express surprise or amazement.
- Difficult to Put the Happiness of Someone You Love Before Your Own: Acknowledging the challenge of prioritizing a loved one’s happiness over personal desires.
- With Her Little Bird Far Out of Sight: Reference to the bird flying away and being no longer visible.
- Very Lonely: Princess September experiences a sudden feeling of isolation and sadness.
- Mocked Her: Her sisters ridiculed or made fun of her.
- Grew Extremely Beautiful: Princess September’s appearance improved over time, possibly due to her happiness and the bird’s presence..
- Grew Extremely Ugly as Well as Disagreeable: Describing the negative transformation of the sisters’ appearance and behavior.
- Time Came to Marry Them Off: The moment when the sisters were ready for marriage.
- Given Away to the King’s Councillors: The sisters were married off to the advisors of the King.
- Pound of Tea and a Siamese Cat: Describing the dowry or gifts given along with the sisters in marriage.
Character Sketch of Princess September:
Princess September is a compassionate and independent character in the story. Her love for the little bird reveals a sacrificial and selfless nature. Open-minded and emotionally resilient, she matures through challenges. Appreciating nature, she prioritizes freedom, making wise decisions that showcase her courage and wisdom.
- Compassionate and Loving:
- Princess September is portrayed as a compassionate and loving character. Her emotional response to the death of her parrot and her efforts to comfort it reveal her caring nature.
- Open-minded and Free-spirited:
- September’s decision to keep her window open day and night, allowing the little bird to come and go freely, reflects an open-minded and free-spirited attitude. She values the freedom of her pet.
- Courageous and Independent:
- The Princess shows courage in defying her sisters’ opinions and deciding to release the little bird when she realizes it is unhappy in the cage. Her independence is evident in her willingness to prioritize the bird’s well-being over conventional expectations.
- Sacrificial and Selfless:
- Princess September exhibits selflessness in her decision to give the bird his freedom, despite her own desire to keep him close. Her willingness to prioritize the bird’s happiness over her own highlights her sacrificial nature.
- Emotionally Resilient:
- Despite facing challenges, such as the death of her first parrot and the subsequent emotional distress, Princess September remains emotionally resilient. She finds solace in the songs of the little bird and continues to care for it.
- Maturing and Wise:
- The character undergoes growth and maturity throughout the story. Initially naive about the consequences of confining the bird, she learns from the experience and ultimately makes a wise decision for the bird’s well-being.
- Appreciative of Nature:
- Princess September’s love for the little bird and her desire to see it happy in its natural state showcase her appreciation for nature and its beauty. This is evident in her enjoyment of the bird’s songs and her decision to keep the window open.
Role in the Story: Princess September serves as the central character in the narrative. Her actions and decisions drive the plot and convey important themes such as love, freedom, sacrifice, and the beauty of nature. Through her experiences with the little bird, she undergoes a journey of emotional growth and understanding, ultimately making choices that prioritize the well-being and happiness of others.
Overall Impression: Princess September emerges as a sympathetic and endearing character, with her love for the little bird and her willingness to learn and adapt. Her journey reflects universal themes of compassion, freedom, and the transformative power of selfless love.
Character Sketch of the Eight Sisters:
The eight sisters in the story serve as contrasting figures to Princess September. They are not very nice to Princess September. They make fun of her and don’t believe the little bird will come back. Unlike September, they are closed-minded and mean. Their unkindness is evident in their dismissive attitude toward the bird’s departure. In contrast to September’s growth and maturity, the sisters face an unpleasant fate, highlighting the consequences of their closed hearts.
Theme of ‘Princess September’
The theme of “Princess September” by W. Somerset Maugham revolves around the idea of individuality and the pursuit of happiness. The story explores how Princess September finds joy and comfort in her unique relationship with a little bird that sings to her. This individual connection and happiness stand in contrast to the more conventional and materialistic approach of her sisters, who attempt to comfort her by offering a replacement in the form of a green and yellow parrot.
Additionally, the narrative touches upon the theme of freedom and the acceptance of others’ choices. Princess September values the freedom of her bird, allowing it to come and go as it pleases, while her sisters emphasize the importance of safety and conformity by suggesting she cage the bird. The story suggests that happiness can be found in unconventional ways, and individuals should be allowed the freedom to make choices that bring them joy, even if those choices might seem unusual to others.
We can conclude that “Princess September” explores the theme of individuality, personal happiness, and the acceptance of unconventional choices in the pursuit of a fulfilling life.