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

The Open Window

by Saki

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What is ironic about Mrs. Sappleton's response in "The Open Window"?

In "The Open Window," Mrs. Sappleton's response is ironic because she is not shocked, incredulous, nor overjoyed at witnessing the return of her husband and brothers from a day of shooting. This is significant because it defies the expectations raised by Vera's story about their untimely deaths three years earlier.

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When Mrs. Sappleton sees her husband and two younger brothers returning from a day of shooting, she brightens into what the narrator calls "alert attention," and she is evidently glad to see them. Vera, her niece, has told Mr. Framton Nuttel, a young man with an anxiety problem, that the men died three years ago—this day being the very anniversary of that date—when they lost their lives in the bog. Further, she told him that their bodies were never recovered, and she added that Mrs. Sappleton keeps the window open as she always used to do when they lived.

Thus, we might expect that Mrs. Sappleton's response to seeing her husband and brothers would be something like surprise after all this time, but she seems to be expecting them, saying, "Here they are at last!" Because she always hoped that they would return, we might even expect her to be overjoyed and rush out to meet them, and though she is happy to see them, her enthusiasm is not excessive. Thus, she is neither surprised nor overjoyed, subverting our expectations and creating irony, as situational irony results from the contrast between what we would expect to happen in a given situation and what actually does happen. Mrs. Sappleton's response to seeing her husband and brothers return is ironic because it is not what one would expect it to be, given the story Vera has told Mr. Nuttel.

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