Please comment on this idea: What makes "The Open Window" so interesting is the conflict between comedy and horror. 

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The 15 year-old niece in "The Open Window" knows how to play the perfect practical joke; however, the narrator calls this "Romance at short notice." In order to get the desired effect on a victim, a practical joker must make him or her deeply believe the narrative behind the joke. The niece decides to employ a shocking tragedy to hook the gullible visitor into her scheme. In fact, the word "horror" means painful, overwhelming and shocking, which all apply to the sad story she tells about her uncles getting lost in a bog one dreadful night three years previous to their meeting.

The comedy comes in at the very end as Mr. Nuttel swiftly makes his exit from the house because of how well the girl plays him. One might ask if this is a horrific comedy or a comical horror story. Both couplings create an oxymoronic conflict that produces the desired effect on Mr. Nuttel as well as the reader. For example, the reader might be like Mr. Nuttel, soaking up the supernatural and tragic story of lost family members, only to be hilariously mocked and/or taken for a fool in the end. Going back over the story after a first reading makes the following passages more comedic and less horrifying each time:

"'I hope you don't mind the open window,' said Mrs. Sappleton briskly; 'my husband and brothers will be home directly from shooting, and they always come in this way. . .' She rattled on cheerfully about the shooting and the scarcity of birds and the prospects for duck in the winter. To Framton, it was all purely horrible. He made a desperate but only partially successful effort to turn the talk onto a less ghastly topic."

The niece couldn't have planned her aunt's speech more perfectly! Everything her aunt says to Nuttel adds to the horrifying story that also helps to build the comedy at the end when the truth is discovered. In fact, one might say that horror and comedy are not necessarily in conflict with each other in this story because without the horror, there would be no comedy. Therefore, the comedy of the story actually depends on how horrific the story is and how well it is believed.

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