Is the story that Vera told to Framton true or false in the short story "The Open Window"?

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mlsldy3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Open Window is a short story about a young girl, Vera, with a very active imagination. Frampton Nuttel has come to the country on his doctor's orders. He suffers from being highly nervous and anxious, so his doctor thought living in the country for awhile might help him. His sister lives near by, so she has agreed to make sure he knows everyone in town. While he is at the house of Vera's aunt, Vera tells him that her aunt will be down in a moment. Vera talks to Frampton, but finds him extremely boring, so she decides to have a little fun with him. She points to the big open window and concocts a ghostly story about it.

"Out through that window, three years ago today, her husband and her two younger brothers went off for their day's shooting. They never came back. In crossing the moor to their favorite snipe-shooting ground they were all three engulfed in a treacherous piece of bog. It had been that dreadful wet summer, you know, and places that were safe in other years gave way suddenly without warning. Their bodies were never recovered. That was the dreadful part of it."

Vera goes on to say that her aunt waits every day for the three of them to return through the open window along with their spaniel. Frampton feels sorry for Vera's aunt, Vera makes Frampton think her aunt is not mentally stable. When the aunt appears, she tells Frampton that her husband and brothers will be home shortly, that they had gone on a hunting trip. Frampton just sits there, feeling sorry for the woman. However, things change when the aunt informs him that the men have returned. Frampton looks in horror as he sees the men and dog returning through the window. Frampton, in his nervous state, jumps up and leaves the house, without a word. They all wonder why the strange man left in such a hurry, and Vera tells them he was afraid of the dog. She makes up another story of how Frampton had an encounter with a dog and was now terrified of all dogs. 

Vera made up the whole story because she was bored. Poor Frampton didn't wait for an explanation of the events. He was terrified by what he was seeing. The mind is an amazing thing. Vera had told him a story, and he believed every word. 

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is actually a thought-provoking question. The story Vera tells Framton Nuttel is partially true. Three men went out that window to shoot birds. They took a brown spaniel with them. Mrs. Sappleton has left the tall French window open for them to return that way. She is expecting them to be home for tea. She hasn't lost her mind, but she does seem a little rattle-brained. Part of what Vera tells Framton before her aunt comes down is as follows:

"Poor aunt always thinks that they will come back someday, they and the little brown spaniel that was lost with them, and walk in at that window just as they used to do. That is why the window is kept open every evening till it is quite dusk. Poor dear aunt, she has often told me how they went out, her husband with his white waterproof coat over his arm, and Ronnie, her youngest brother, singing 'Bertie, why do you bound?' as he always did to tease her, because she said it got on her nerves."

Vera bases her ghost story on a number of true facts. It is because of the element of truth that Framton is so frightened when the men appear, all carrying guns. They have a little brown spaniel with them. Mr. Sappleton is carrying his white waterproof coat. And Ronnie bursts out singing "Bertie, why do you bound?" What is not true, of course, is that the three men died when they were sucked into a bog. They are not dead. It was ingenious of Vera to twist the truth in such a way that her story is so effective. Mrs. Sappleton is acting the part Vera cast her for. Ronnie sings "Bertie, why do you bound?" just as Vera knew he would, since he always does the same thing. And Vera herself puts on an excellent act as a frightened child to lend additional credence to her ghost story.

The child was staring out through the open window with a dazed horror in her eyes. 

Vera is telling a story within a story. One story is Saki's, and one is Vera's. But Vera's story has two dimensions: there is the truth and there is the fiction.