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

The Open Window

by Saki
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In "The Open Window," what is it about Mrs. Sappleton’s niece that causes Framton additional distress?

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Mrs. Sappleton's fifteen-year-old niece, Vera, causes Framton Nuttel additional mental distress by telling him an eerie tale about the tragic deaths of her uncles, who she knows will soon return from their hunting trip and walk into the open French window. Vera is described as a self-possessed young lady with a vivid imagination and an affinity for "Romance at short notice." Upon meeting Framton Nuttel, Vera asks him several questions and discovers that he is an extremely neurotic, timid man, who knows nothing about Mrs. Sappleton and is unfamiliar with the region. Vera views Mr. Nuttel as an easy victim and proceeds to fabricate a tragic, unnerving story, which explains why the French window is left open. Vera knows that her uncles will return shortly from their hunting trip and gives Mr. Nuttel a look of horror once he witnesses them walking toward the open window. Framton believes that Vera's uncles are ghosts and becomes overwhelmed with fear. Framton becomes so frightened that he bolts out of the house before the men arrive. Vera's capacity for fabricating stories, her ability to maintain her composure, and her talent for reading personalities allow her to frighten Framton Nuttel.

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In short, Vera (Mrs. Sappleton's niece) causes Framton Nuttel additional distress by telling a story that causes "mental excitement." This is exactly the stress poor Framton Nuttel is trying to avoid. He has moved to the country in order to calm his "nervous condition" and is trying to introduce himself to the neighbors without much incident.

Unfortunately for Framton Nuttel, Mrs. Sappleton's neice is the first person he comes in contact with in the neighboring household. Vera is a mischievous liar with a full imagination. As soon as she meets Framton Nuttel and is asked to "entertain" him for a bit, Vera makes up a story about the open window in the house.  

The tall tale concerns Mrs. Sappleton being a "widow" who lost her husband and his brothers in a hunting accident. According to Vera's story, the window stays eternally open in case the men come back someday. The story is a lie. Mr. Sappleton is on a hunting trip at that very moment and returns through the open window. A thoroughly distraught Framton Nuttel runs from the household in fear.

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In the story, Mrs. Sappleton's niece, Vera, accompanies her story with acutely expressive facial and bodily expressions. It is these dramatic theatrics that cause Framton additional distress.

After telling Framton the Gothic story of how Mrs. Sappleton's husband and two brothers died, Vera shudders noticeably. Her dramatic action adds to the eerie nature of the story; being of a gullible nature, Framton becomes convinced of the truth of what he's hearing. He begins to see Mrs. Sappleton in a new light and thinks she is deluded. Poor Framton is thoroughly terrified but still remains seated, possibly because of his ingrained social training.

While Mrs. Sappleton continues talking about welcoming her husband and brothers, Vera further distresses Framton by resorting to more dramatics.

Framton shivered slightly and turned towards the niece with a look intended to convey sympathetic comprehension. The child was staring out through the open window with a dazed horror in her eyes. In a chill shock of nameless fear Framton swung round in his seat and looked in the same direction.

When the men do appear, poor Framton is terrified beyond endurance, and he flees the scene altogether. So, Vera uses Framton's trusting and gullible nature against him. By resorting to dramatic expressions, she is able to imbue her story with spine-chilling authenticity, an accomplishment that later causes Framton extreme distress.

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