The Open Window
- H. Munro (Saki)
I chose this story because we read it in class. The story is simple and has no deeper meaning, but the twist at the end is fun and quite unexpected. The way the reader uses perspective makes the story interesting to read.
Framton Nuttel is sitting in silence next to the self-possessed niece of Mrs Sappleton. He is visiting the quiet countryside in an attempt to cure him of his nerves. Though he doubts that these meetings with strangers arranged by his sister were going to do him any good. The niece named Vera breaks the silence by asking Mr Nuttel if he knows anything about the area to which he replies that he knows hardly a soul.
Vera tells Framton about Mrs Sappleton’s “great tragedy” and points out the large window that was wide open on this October afternoon. Mrs Sappleton’s husband, two young brothers and their spaniel had left through the window some three years ago. She said that they had gotten stuck and died in a treacherous patch of land on the hunting grounds. Her aunt leaves the window open, often until nightfall, as she still believes that they will return someday. Vera adds that on occasion she too gets the feeling that the dead men will return through the window.
To Mr Nuttel’s relief, Mrs Sappleton enters the room. She apologises for the open window. She adds that her husband and brothers always enter through it when returning from their hunting trips to not muddy up the carpet.
Mrs Sappleton exclaims that her brothers and husband have arrived just in time for tea. Mr Nuttel feels sorry for the woman and her fantasies until he notices the horrified face of Vera. He turns to look out the window and spots three hunters and a dog walking towards the house. Framton grabs his stick and hat and scurries out of the house.
The men enter through the window and one of them asks who the man running past was. “A most extraordinary man,” Mrs Sappleton replied. Vera said that Mr Nuttel had run off because of his fear of dogs caused by an incident in India.
Themes in The Open Window are perspective, etiquette and trickery.
The main theme of the story is perspective. Saki cleverly uses the difference in perspective between the reader, Framton, Vera and Mrs Sappleton to create an entertaining story. Framton, who believes that the male relatives perished in an accident, finds it 'purely horrible' to listen to Mrs Sappleton's ramblings about her relatives and rushes out of the house terrified when he sees the three men supposedly dead outside. From Mrs Sappleton's perspective, Framton is a crazed man who inexplicably does not want to talk about her relatives and flees when he sees them. At first, the reader has no reason not to believe Vera's story and so naturally goes along with it. Only when Vera fabricates a story about Framton's accident in India does it become clear to the reader that they too have been fooled. Vera uses her confidence and quick-thinking skills to fool the adults around her for her own entertainment
Analysis of main characters
Framton Nuttel is an anxious gentleman sent to the countryside by his sister to soothe his nerves. He believes that Mrs Sappleton’s relatives are dead and so is horrified when he sees them walking outside
Vera Sappleton is the niece of Mrs Sappleton. She tricked Mr Nuttel in believing that her uncle and cousins died in a hunting accident years ago. Vera tricks the adults around her for her own entertainment. She has a confident and self-possessed demeanour.
Mrs Sappleton is the aunt of Vera Sappleton. She’s unaware of Vera’s shenanigans and so is surprised when Framton bolts out the front door.
The story was written at the end of the Victorian era, in 1911, which saw a relaxing of the rigid social etiquette of the era.
‘Framton grabbed wildly at his stick and hat; the hall-door, the gravel-drive, and the front gate were dimly-noted stages in his headlong retreat. A cyclist coming along the road had to run into the hedge to avoid an imminent collision.’
On the return of Mr Sappleton’s relatives to the house, Framton rushes out without explanation or apology — casting aside his courteous manners in the face of horror.
‘"I expect it was the spaniel," said the niece calmly; "he told me he had a horror of dogs. He was once hunted into a cemetery somewhere on the banks of the Ganges by a pack of pariah dogs, and had to spend the night in a newly dug grave with the creatures snarling and grinning and foaming just above him. Enough to make anyone their nerve."’
Vera quickly thinks of a convincing story to explain why Framton rushed off. This fragment of the end of the story shows her ability to deceive those around her and it’s also the moment when it becomes clear to the reader that they, and Framton, have been fooled.
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