The Open Window Questions and Answers
by Saki

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In your opinion, is Frampton Nuttel or Vera the more likable character in "The Open Window" by Saki? 

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Framton Nuttel does not seem like a particularly attractive or likeable character. He seems to have been created to serve as the ideal victim for young Vera. He is neurotic and self-centered. Mrs. Sappleton describes him to her husband after Nuttel has fled.

"A most extraordinary man, a Mr. Nuttel," said Mrs. Sappleton; "could only talk about his illnesses, and dashed off without a word of goodbye or apology when you arrived. One would think he had seen a ghost."

Even Mrs. Sappleton, who leads a boring life, finds Nuttel boring. People who are always talking about their illnesses are never likeable. We start wondering whether some of those illnesses might be contagious. They make us feel a little bit itchy. We are not doctors and don't know how to respond except to ask, "Have you seen a doctor?" Which brings up another whole megillah. Framton can, and does, talk about all the doctors he has seen and what they have told him.

"The doctors agree in ordering me complete rest, an absence of mental excitement, and avoidance of anything in the nature of violent physical exercise," announced Framton, who laboured under the tolerably widespread delusion that total strangers and chance acquaintances are hungry for the least detail of one's ailments and infirmities, their cause and cure. 

Nuttel is obviously going to be a crushing bore for however long he remains a social obligation here. Vera is doing the whole family a favor by scaring him into leaving so unceremoniously.

Vera, on the other hand, is likeable because, for one thing, she has a sense of humor. We like her for her poise, her intelligence, and her well-hidden girlish mischievousness. She is like the one ray of fun in this terribly stodgy English country family, where nobody ever talks about anything but shooting birds. The fact that Vera has to eat a lot of wild fowl at dinner, and occasionally bites into a lead pellet, probably adds to her dislike of the whole subject of killing birds. It is because of all the talk about bird-shooting that she is able to know what her aunt will talk about when she appears and what the three men will look like when they arrive for tea. She will even foretell that one of them will sing out, "I said, Bertie, why do you bound?"

We can sympathize with Vera because she is a teenager who is kept a virtual prisoner in this stultifying house. A good fiction writer always introduces his characters "in character." That is, in doing something characteristic. Vera introduces herself as a substitute hostess.

"My aunt will be down presently, Mr. Nuttel," said a very self-possessed young lady of fifteen; "in the meantime you must try and put up with me."

She knows she is being groomed to marry some country gentleman and become a housewife not unlike her Aunt Sappleton, whom she despises. There was probably no urgent need for Mrs. Sappleton to send Vera on ahead to greet the visitor, but it was an opportunity to give Vera a bit of experience in playing hostess. Vera takes maximum advantage of that opportunity--but not in the way her aunt would have wanted.

We like this precocious girl because she is rebellious, mischievous, and full of spirit. We are pleased to see that she gets by with her prank when she invents another story to explain the strange behavior of Framton Nuttel. His headlong flight does not seem deplorable but funny and maybe even the kind of mental cleansing and vigorous exercise he has been needing.

Framton grabbed wildly at his stick and hat; the hall door, the gravel drive, and the front gate were dimly noted stages in his headlong retreat. A cyclist coming along the road had to run into the hedge to avoid imminent collision.

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