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In Saki's "The Open Window," what is Vera's reaction to the appearance of the three men...

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kalisia | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 17, 2013 at 9:56 PM via web

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In Saki's "The Open Window," what is Vera's reaction to the appearance of the three men returning from the moor?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 14, 2014 at 11:58 PM (Answer #2)

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These three returning men may be a little bit worse than mere ghosts. They may be like the creatures in the cult classic movie Night of the Living Dead. These horrible men and women in the movie are best described as "living dead" or possibly as zombies. That is, Framton Nuttel takes them to be living dead or zombies. This makes them seem more horrible than run-of-the-mill ghosts. They are related to Herbert White of W. W. Jacobs' horror story "The Monkey's Paw." Herbert is killed by being mangled in the machinery at work, but it would seem that he is brought back to life by his father's second wish. If so, then Herbert is not a ghost but something much worse.

It is a little hard to understand the relationships in Mrs. Sappleton's household. She is Vera's aunt, which means that one of the hunters is probably Vera's father and is a brother to Mrs. Sappleton. One of the other hunters is Mrs. Sappleton's husband. Vera tells Framton:

"Out through that window, three years ago to a day, her husband and her two young brothers went off for their day's shooting."

Does Vera live in this house or is she just visiting? She would have only been twelve years old when the three men supposedly got drowned in the bog. 

Saki takes great pains to make it clear to Framton that the three men he sees approaching the open window with their guns are the three men who, according to Vera, died several years ago. They are not just three neighboring men who happen to be in the vicinity at that time. They are accompanied by a brown spaniel. Mr. Sappleton is carrying the white waterproof coat over his arm, just as Vera's aunt supposedly described him to Vera. And Ronnie, Mrs. Sappleton's youngest brother, is singing, "Bertie, why do you bound?" just as he was singing it on the day they left for "their day's shooting." 

Many factors have to come together in order to produce the terror that will cause Framton to grab his stick and hat and go running off down the country road. Mrs. Sappleton will have to identify them first. She says, "Here they are at last!" Then when Framton looks at Vera, "The child was staring out through the open window with dazed horror in her eyes." This is in sharp contrast to her attitude up to this point, which the author describes as "self-possessed." Mrs. Sappleton does not appear to be the least bit surprised or frightened--but, after all, she is insane. Then when Framton turns to look at what both Mrs. Sappleton and Vera have already seen through the open French window, he sees the little brown spaniel and the white waterproof coat. The fact that all three men are carrying guns proves they have been out hunting. And finally,

...a hoarse young voice chanted out of the dusk: "I said, "Bertie, why do you bound?"

These silly words are like proof positive that these men must be the three lost family members who have been brought back to life after three years and will soon be entering the living room through the open window.

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handbooktoliterature | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

Posted September 17, 2013 at 10:02 PM (Answer #1)

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Vera's reaction is meant to be one of shock, as she is continuing her trick on the unsuspecting visitor, Framton Nuttel. This leads to poor Framton, who has moved to the country to settle his nerves, to believe he is witnessing the entrance of ghosts. He bolts faster than Usain, leaving only a trail as he heads down the lane before the men can make their full entrance or Mrs. Sappleton can appear. 

In the end, Vera has shown herself to be quite the teller of tales and a bit cruel as she has taken advantage of a stranger who is already on edge.

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