Give the brief character sketch of Mrs. Sappleton from the short story "The Open Window."

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Vera is able to convince Framton Nuttel that her aunt Mrs. Sappleton is insane. This is because the poor woman has been confined to an isolated English country home where she hears nothing but male talk about killing birds. Her life revolves around her husband and two brothers. Vera apparently despises her aunt for being so dependent and servile. Vera knows exactly what her aunt is going to say and do when she puts in an appearance. Mrs. Sappleton will sit looking at the open French window waiting for her men to appear for tea as they always do at this time. She will be talking to Framton Nuttel without really giving him much of her attention. Framton naturally assumes the poor woman is insane because she can talk about nothing but the three men she is expecting and the only topic she knows they will all be talking about when the men arrive.

She rattled on cheerfully about the shooting and the scarcity of birds, and the prospects for duck in the winter.

In a way, Vera is not far off in judging her aunt to be mentally unbalanced. Mrs. Sappleton has led the kind of dull, narrow, domestic life that would make any woman seem eccentric. She assumes that Framton must be interested in the scarcity of birds and the prospects for duck in the winter, because she takes it for granted that that is all men ever think about or talk about. She does not, of course, realize that she seems to be waiting for and talking about three men who died several years earlier.

Vera is being groomed to be a mindless country housewife just like her aunt. This makes the girl resentful and inspires her to create a little uproar just to change the status quo in this maddening household. Mrs. Sappleton has no clue as to why Framton suddenly jumps up and goes running out of the house and down the country road. She tells her husband:

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

Framton was not only escaping from three ghosts but from what he took to be a lunatic asylum. If the three men are ghosts, and if Mrs. Sappleton recognizes them and welcomes them, then what is Framton to think of her?

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