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How does Saki criticize the etiquette of the Edwardian Era in the story "The Open Window"?

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mannatt | Middle School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 10, 2012 at 1:42 PM via web

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How does Saki criticize the etiquette of the Edwardian Era in the story "The Open Window"?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 10, 2012 at 4:20 PM (Answer #1)

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A great satirist, Saki ridicules the complacency of the upper-class of English society at the beginning of the twentieth century in his short story "The Open Window."  During the reign of Edward VII, this wealthy class often owned summer homes in the country.  And, it is to such a home owned by the Stappletons that Frank Nuttel comes for a rest for his nerves.

Part of the etiquette of the day demands that Mr. Nuttel be accompanied by letters of introduction to Mrs. Stappleton so that he may be permitted to stay at her home.  Ironically, however, the politeness is not reciprocated by the Stappletons as Vera plays cruel jokes on the anxiety-ridden Nuttel and Mrs. Stappleton rudely makes him wait for her to come down and greet him.  Clearly, Saki satirizes the superciliousness of Mrs. Stappleton who virtually ignores Nuttel, speaking of her family and suppressing a yawn, but when Vera completes her practical joke and Nuttel breaks and runs off, she makes the haughty criticism,

"A most extraordinary man...could only talk about his illnesses, and dashed off without a word of goodbye or apology when you arrived...."

Finally, Vera herself is satirized as she is described as "self-possessed," meaning that she has good manners and self-control.  But, ironically, this self-possession constitutes what permits Vera to remain calm and believable as she tells her tall tales, which certainly are no demonstration of good manners.

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