Open House Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Robert Greenman Ceretti has come to South Africa to learn “the truth” about the country. He wants to see more than the officially organized tour for visitors allows. In particular, he wants to talk directly with black Africans about how they experience apartheid. To arrange such a meeting, he telephones Frances Taver, one of the few “right white people” able to do so.

Frances has had a long history of friendship with black Africans. In the 1940’s, she worked with them in the labor unions. When such unions were outlawed in the 1950’s, she managed a black-and-white theater group. Not too many years before Robert’s arrival, she frequently entertained racially mixed groups at her house, parties at which a foreign visitor might, paradoxically, enjoy more open contact with nonwhite people than at home.

South Africa has changed. New laws have made apartheid more repressive and have sent the more politically active black Africans to jail or to life underground. One such friend, a member of the recently outlawed African National Congress (ANC) and therefore fearing arrest, still visits Frances occasionally when she is alone.

Frances first resists Robert’s request: “The ones you ought to see,” she informs him, “are shut away.” However, because she likes Robert and is flattered by his attention, she arranges a luncheon for him to meet three black Africans. The ones she invites are neither close friends nor men she most...

(The entire section is 495 words.)