In "The Open Window" by Saki, why did Vera's story have such a powerful effect on Framton?

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Saki’s creative story “The Open Window” depends on the teenage trickster Vera to set the trap for Framton Nuttel. Nuttel is traveling around the country in an effort to find a cure for his nervous condition.  His sister has sent him to the Sappleton house with a letter of introduction.

The reason that Nuttel is so susceptible to Vera’s prank comes from his mental condition:  

Privately, he [Nuttel] doubted more than ever whether these formal visits on a succession of total strangers would do much towards helping the nerve cure which he was supposed to be undergoing.

While Nuttel waits on Mrs. Sappleton to come in to meet him, he is entertained by Vera, the fifteen year old niece.  After discovering that Nuttel was not from anywhere around and that he knows no one, Vera proceeds to tell a sinister story of missing persons.  She details why the room’s window is left open. 

According to Vera, three years ago Mr. Sappleton and his two brothers went hunting and never returned.  Mrs. Sappleton leaves the window open in case the men of her family come back. She longs to hear the song that her husband sings when he returns from hunting.

When Mrs. Sappleton comes in, she, of course, has no idea that Vera has been using her storytelling tricks again. Mrs. Sappleton tells Nuttel that she is waiting on her husband and his brothers to return from hunting.  Nuttel tries to tell her about his condition to change the subject.  Both the lady and the man are not listening  to the other one’s attempts at conversation.  

Suddenly Mrs. Sappleton states: "Here they are at last!"

Nuttel looks around and sees that Vera has a look of horror on her face.  Nuttel turns around to see the men walking across the lawn, with the husband singing his hunting song.  Nuttel grabs his hat and flees from the house.

Mr. Sappleton comes through the window greeting his wife.  Both of them wonder why the strange man left so suddenly as if he had seen a ghost. Once again, Vera stretches the truth. Vera says that she believes it was the spaniel that frightened him; she tells her aunt and uncle that Nuttel is terrified of dogs ever since being hunted into a cemetery in India by wild dogs and having to spend the night in a newly dug grave.

Vera has a real talent for making stories up on short notice. As Saki remarks at story's end, making up stories that add a bit of excitement to life.

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