What are Vera's main characteristics in Saki's "The Open Window"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Vera might be compared with adolescent Briony Tallis in the novel Atonement by Ian McEwan, published in 2001. The novel was made into an excellent motion picture in 2007 and won many prestigious awards. It won an Academy Award for Best Original Score and was nominated for six other Academy Awards, which is quite unusual for a foreign film. The photography, costuming, and settings are all exceptionally good. Both Vera and Briony appear innocent and ingenuous, but both have hidden mean streaks. Vera's transgression is comical, but Briony's is very serious. Both girls tell untrue stories, but Briony's story gets an innocent man sent to prison.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Mrs. Sappleton has completely accepted and adjusted to her role as a housewife and hostess in a big country home. But Vera is only fifteen years old. She is restless and bored. Being a girl, she can't go hunting with the men and probably has no desire to do so anyway. She wouldn't want to get all cold and muddy, and she wouldn't want to kill innocent birds. Mrs. Sappleton probably sends Vera to greet Framton Nuttel because the older woman wants the girl to get some experience acting as a hostess and preparing herself to become something like Mrs. Sappleton herself. But Vera doesn't want to be another woman whose life revolves around men who think about and talk about nothing but hunting. Vera obviously wants more freedom and excitement in life, but she only gets it through reading and fantasies. Saki chose a fifteen-year-old girl because she is just old enough to be convincing and just young enough to be full of mischief. 

Vera and Framton make good contrasting characters, or "foils." Vera is young, Framton is middle-aged. Vera is female, Framton is male. Vera is relaxed and "self-possessed," Framton is a nervous wreck. Vera wants excitement, Framton wants to avoid all excitement. Vera is imaginative and articulate, Framton has little to talk about except his nervous troubles. Vera also contrasts with her aunt when Mrs. Sappleton arrives in the living room. They are both females, but they are entirely different types. Mrs. Sappleton looks forward to the men's return, while Vera is bored with the sameness of their talk and behavior and decides to use it for her ghost story. Mrs. Sappleton can only seem to talk about one subject--shooting birds. The fact that Framton complains about his bad nerves only serves Vera as an inspiration. She would not tell the same story to a different type of visitor. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This short story contains an absolutely fascinating character who is the mastermind behind the story of "The Open Window." Vera, of course, is the storyteller without equal, who is quickly able to seize on details and weave convincing tales to horrific effect. Note how she dominates the story - it begins with her words and ends with them. We are told in the first sentence that she is "a very self-possessed young lady of fifteen". It is clear that she sees in Framton Nuttel an object for one of her stories, as she is quick to establish that he knows nobody from the area and thus she is free to use her excellent wit and intelligence to create a fable that will shock Framton Nuttel for her own amusement. She shows herself to be an excellent actor as well as a storyteller. Consider how the author narrates her duping of Framton Nuttel:

Here the child's voice lost its self-possessed note and became falteringly human... She broke off with a shudder.

She is not only creative, but quick, intelligent and able to fool others into believing her words. This is demonstrated yet again at the end of the tale when, nonchalantly, she creates another tale to explain Framton Nuttel's swift escape from the house to trick her family, telling the tale "calmly" with complete equanimity. Clearly this tale celebrates the power that a good storyteller can have over a susceptible audience, with Vera presented as the master storyteller, and everyone else her ignorant and naive victims.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial