What is the irony in the short story "The Open Window"?
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I believe that the main irony in the story is in the fact that Framton Nuttel has come to that part of the country for what Saki calls a "nerve cure" and he runs into a demonic girl who concocts a practical joke which scares him so badly that it will take him months to recover. This is supposed to be a stereotypical English country setting where nothing ever happens. It is probably because it is such a dull place that Vera decides to try to liven things up a little by entertaining her nervous visitor. Maybe his reaction is stronger than she anticipated?
It is logical that Mrs. Sappleton should take some time about coming down to greet Framton Nuttel. She would probably be expecting him but would not know exactly when he would arrive. When his arrival was announced to her, she is the type of woman who would want to spend some time arranging her hair, powdering her face, perhaps even changing into a different dress. So it is logical that she would send Vera to greet the visitor, both for the sake of politeness and also to give the young girl some practice in playing the hostess. It is ironic that the girl who is supposed to greet the visitor and make him feel comfortable should be the one to do exactly the opposite by telling him about three deaths and setting him up to believe he is seeing ghosts. It is also ironic that Mrs. Sappleton's concern about the guest's comfort and making him feel at home should result in frightening him half to death and making him flee in panic. It is also ironic that such a young, innocent-looking girl like Vera should be secretly so different inside. No one but the reader ever finds out the truth about why Framton Nuttel fled or what young Vera had to do with his flight.
Framton Nuttel is persuaded to come to the country because his sister and his doctors believe that country life is restful. This is just an assumption based on the fact that the country looks much more peaceful than the city. But Saki sems to be illustrating the fact that people are pretty much the same everywhere. Nuttel probably expects to meet a family a simple, kindly folks who are all blissfully relaxed themselves because of their long exposure to the peaceful, restful country, where the biggest event of the week is strolling to church on Sunday and strolling home again for an afternoon nap. Instead he runs into a whole bunch of zany characters, including Mrs. Sappleton whom he believes to be totally insane. Another irony in Saki's story is that the people Framton expects to be so wholesome and serene are nuttier than he is. The monotony of country living has allowed them to blossom out in their unique eccentricities. When he goes running off down the road, he may be thinking of running all the way back to London, where people are crazy in more conventional and predictable ways. We don't see much of the men, but they seem to like to do nothing but tramp around in the mud and kill birds. One of them bursts out singing, "I said, Bertie, why do you bound?" because he knows Mrs. Sappleton doesn't like it. Vera says her poor aunt is crazy and keeps waiting for the three men to return for tea every night. In fact, that is exactly what Mrs. Sappleton does do: She leaves the French window open because she is waiting for the men to come back for tea. She is crazy, but not exactly in the way Vera describes her. Vera is hardly a simple country lass, like one of those eulogized by Wordsworth. She is growing sadistic because of being confined to this lunatic asylum. She probably wouldn't mind a bit if the three hunters really were drowned in a bog. In fact she may have harbored that secret wish on more than one occasion.
The irony is that both the characters in this story take the first impressions of one another.
The irony in "The Open Window" is the open window itself. The open window is symbolic of honesty, yet it is used to deceive Mr. Nuttle with the story of Mrs. Sappleton's lost husband and brothers who left through the window and never returned.
The niece is playing on poor Mr. Nuttle who is "resting" due to some type of mental instability. It is further ironic in that everything Mrs. Sappleton remarks about her husband and brothers out hunting is taken differently by Mr. Nuttle. He is horrified at the glibness of her tone because he believes that they have suffered a tragedy.
The sudden reaction and departure of Mr. Nuttle when the men return through the window is ironic, as well. The niece is able to explain his fight by saying he merely was afraid of the dog, while in reality he believes they have come from some other realm.
(...) As to the irony in Saki's short story "at large". Here Saki gives the device a unique, double twist, although you can't grasp it till you've read the last lines, and reached the return of the shooters and Nuttel's escape. When Vera starts relating her "Ganges story" about him, what do you understand first ? That she's completely making it up : she knows nothing of Nuttel, she's a mythomaniac who's fooled and scared the poor chap with her hoax about her aunt's tragedy. But not only him. You then realize that you too, the reader, have been taken on a ride by her since, in the first place, you could not but believe that tragical story about the dead shooters - just like Nuttel did. In other words, while Vera was deceiving Nuttel with her lies, Saki/the narrator in his turn was fooling YOU by doing as if he were scoffing at Nuttel, and at Nuttel only.
To sum it up, the irony in The Open Window is twofold : between Saki + Reader at the expense of Nuttel, but above all, given its ending, between Saki + Vera at the expense of the Reader - who's been foolish enough to blindly (flatteringly ?) believe the story was merely designed to make Nuttel its laughing stock. This is no less than a slap in the face of the reader. As to universal credulity and man's willingness to believe anything from anybody (and to gibe his fellow men ?), I leave the conclusion to you :)
"The Open Window" is not my top pick for a tool through which to teach irony. The unreliable narrator withholds information from the reader, so dramatic irony does not come into play. As far as verbal irony - or sarcasm - the story does not allow for a witty comment made by the niece through which provides this missed opportunity. Situational irony then - the occurrence of the unexpected - is the only possibility (coincidentally that which is found in numerous other short stories that prove to be better tools for this instruction). So when does this occur? When the men appear on the moor much to the reader's surprise. The fact that Framton never learns the truth, I suppose, gives strength to this as ironic. I find it weak and as I've said would judge it a lesser choice for teaching identification of irony. Try Saki's "the Interlopers," O Henry's "The Gift of the Magi," O'Henry's "the Ransom of Red Chief," Liam O'Flaherty's "the Sniper," Michael Bruce's "Gentlement, Your Verdict," Guy de Maupassant's "The Necklace," Edgar Allen Poe's "the Cask of Amontillado," or James Thurber's "the Little Girl and the Wolf." For a more challenging reading itself, "the Pardoner's Tale" and "the Nun's Priest's Tale" from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales are also said to be good tools for teaching the identification of irony.
Decpection .Do not trust strangers easily.Do not judge a book by its cover.
I would say that the irony in this story would be 1)the mere gulibleness of Mr. Nuttle 2)Vera's exceptionality to twist tales that are so make-believe and 3)how as the reader we are turned over by the ending of the story.Also, how the fact that the grown ups such as Mr.Nuttle, Mrs.Sappelton, her husband and brother are unaware of Vera's made-up story, which just goes to show that sometimes children are far more clever than adults! Though I do have to state, what Vera did was somewhat unpolite.
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