illustration of a young girl looking out a window at ghostly figures

The Open Window

by Saki
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Explain the title of the story "The Open Window."

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The title seems to emphasize the importance of the open window in the story. It also sets a somewhat ominous tone. It suggests that something or other is going to cause trouble from the outside. Something is going to have to come in through that open window or the title wouldn't have been used for the story.

Vera takes advantage of the fact that there is a big French window standing wide open rather late on a not very warm day. The fact that Mr. Sappleton wore his white waterproof coat when he went hunting shows that the weather is overcast and threatening to rain. Vera gets Framton Nuttel's attention focused on the open window when she tells him her ghost story. The mischievous girl knows that her aunt will be sitting and looking towards the open window while she waits for her men to return for tea. 

The open window plays a prominent role in the story. It creates a reason to explain that the hunters are accustomed to leaving and departing through that window, so Framton will understand that the "ghosts" are heading straight towards him rather than entering through a side-door or backdoor in their wet clothes and muddy boots. 

The title focuses the reader's attention on the open window and gives it special and perhaps ominous significance. It dominates the setting in which the entire story takes place. Readers will remember the sight which caused Framton Nuttel to panic and flee from the house.

In the deepening twilight three figures were walking across the lawn towards the window, they all carried guns under their arms, and one of them was additionally burdened with a white coat hung over his shoulders. A tired brown spaniel kept close at their heels. Noiselessly they neared the house, and then a hoarse young voice chanted out of the dusk: "I said, Bertie, why do you bound?"

 

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Saki’s short story “The Open Window” concerns a nervous young man called Framton Nuttel who has been given a letter of introduction by his sister to Mrs. Sappleton, a woman he has never met. As the story begins, rather against his inclinations, Framton is waiting in Mrs. Sappleton’s drawing room for her to come down and greet him. In the meantime, her niece, Vera (an ironic name, since it implies truthfulness) tells him a story centered around the large French window which opens out of the drawing room onto the lawn.

The slight incongruity of keeping the window wide open in October seems to provide Vera with the inspiration for a ghost story about Mrs. Sappleton’s husband and brothers, which she relates with ghoulish relish, saying that although they are dead, Mrs. Sappleton keeps the window open, constantly hoping for their return.

When Mrs. Sappleton finally arrives on the scene, she also alludes to the open window, saying that she has left it open for the men of the house, who will soon come in from shooting. This fits in perfectly with Vera’s story. The open window is therefore the focal point of both Saki’s story and Vera’s story within it.

The phrase “The Open Window” also refers to the window of opportunity which Framton’s credulous nature and the predictability of the adults around her leave Vera for spinning her web of deceit.

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