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

The Open Window

by Saki

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The Open Window Plot Diagram

What is the plot of "The Open Window"? What are the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and conclusion?

The plot of "The Open Window" will include its exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and conclusion. The climax of the story occurs when Framton spies three men whom Vera has told him are dead, crossing the lawn and approaching the open window. The story's rising action relies on Vera's stories regarding their supposed deaths to deliver the full horror that this inflicts upon the socially reserved Framton.

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Although "The Open Window" is a very brief short story, it demonstrates the five elements of plot as it tells a humorous tale about human gullibility.

The exposition or background to the plot is as follows: Mr. Nuttel is staying in the country to help cure his nervous (psychological) disorder. The Sappletons, with whom he is staying, are a family he has never met before, so he knows very little about them. We also learn he is a boring man who goes on and on about his illness.

In the rising action, teenaged Vera tells Mr. Nuttel a dramatic story of her three male relatives being tragically lost while hunting. She says Mrs. Sappleton has not accepted their deaths and keeps the window (French door) open in the belief that they will return.

In the climax, Mr. Nuttel sees the men returning from the hunt just as Vera described them as looking when they disappeared. He is sure they are ghosts and runs off.

In the falling action, Vera and her aunt and uncle wonder happened to make Mr. Nuttel race away in such a strange manner.

In the conclusion, Vera makes up another extraordinary tale to explain his disappearance. The Sappletons (whose last name may play on "sap," a word for a gullible person) fall for it completely, showing how people tend to believe what they are told.

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An exposition typically includes the setting and context of the plot. This story begins with an in media res approach, opening with dialogue as Framton Nuttel awaits an introduction to Mrs. Sappleton. The general context is that Framton, a socially reserved man, has been sent by his sister to visit with a few people in this town so that he will not be so lonely during his time there. He is not looking forward to these introductions.

The rising action of a story will include all major plot points up until the story's climax. Mrs. Sappleton's niece, Vera, entertains Framton by telling him about her aunt's fairly recent tragedy. According to Vera, Mrs. Sappleton sent her husband and young brothers off on a hunting expedition three years earlier, and they never returned. The men supposedly died in a bog, and their bodies were never recovered. Vera claims that her aunt still awaits their return, and she is convinced that one day they will return through the same open window they originally left from, singing a song.

Mrs. Sappleton then bustles into the room and begins amiable conversation.

The highest point of action in a plot is its climax. In this story, that occurs when Mrs. Sappleton turns to the open window and says,

Here they are at last! Just in time for tea, and don't they look as if they were muddy up to the eyes!

Framton is horrified to find that, indeed, three figures are crossing the lawn toward the open window.

Framton is frantic in his efforts to escape from this scene, which is the falling action

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falling action.

The story concludes with the realization that Vera has generated a false story about her aunt's husband and brothers, who are all very much alive, to entertain herself at Framton's expense. Her aunt is none the wiser; Vera claims that Framton had noted his own "horror of dogs" in their conversation, and the little brown spaniel which accompanied the men must have been Framton's undoing.

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"The Open Window" by Saki is a short story about a dual-layered practical joke a young woman (Vera) plays on an unsuspecting visitor. The plot points can be broken up according to the plot triangle as follows:

Exposition: A man named Framton Nuttel is visiting the Sappletons. He must wait for Mrs. Sappleton, so 15-year old Vera keeps him company.

"'My aunt will be down presently, Mr. [Framton] Nuttel,' said a very self-possessed young lady of fifteen, 'in the meantime you must try and put up with me.'"

RisingAction: Vera explains the tragedy, and tells Framton that they keep the window open in memory of Mr. Sappleton. After talking with Vera for a while, Nuttel is introduced to Mrs. Sappleton. Mrs. Sappleton talks on about her husband and brothers, who Vera has just explained are dead. Framton believes Mrs. Sappleton is insane, and tries to avoid the subject of the husband.

"She rattled on cheerfully about the shooting and scarcity of Framton it was all purely horrible."

Climax: As the sun begins setting, three figures walk across the lawn and can be seen from the window.

"In the deepening twilight three figures were walking across the lawn towards the window, they all carried guns under their arms."

Falling Action: Framton, frightened upon realizing the figures are the ghosts of the Sappletons, grabs his things and leaves the house to escape the assumed ghosts.

"Framton grabbed wildly at his stick and hat; the hall door, the gravel dive, and the front gate were dimly noted stages in his headlong retreat."

'A most extraordinary man, Mr. Nuttel,' said Mrs. Sappleton...'One would think he had seen a ghost.'"

Resolution: The family thinks Framton is crazy because he ran away, and it is revealed that the Sappleton "ghosts" are just figments of Vera's "romance at short notice" (skill at telling stories).

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Saki's "The Open Window" follows the normal order of exposition, complication with rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement.

In the exposition, major characters are introduced. These characters are the protagonist, Framton Nuttel, who arrives at the country home of the Sappletons'. They are acquaintances of Nuttel's sister. He is there with letters of introduction from his sister, in the hope that his stay in the country will help his nervous condition. Since Mrs. Sappleton is not ready to receive her guest, she sends her niece Vera, the antagonist, to visit with him until she comes down to the parlor. Vera is a "very self-possessed young lady of fifteen." 

In the complication, or inciting incident of the plot, Nuttel reveals to Vera that he has "a nervous condition" that his sister believes can be alleviated by Nuttel's resting in the country. Hearing this, Vera asks Nuttel if he knows anyone in the area; when he replies that he knows no one, the clever and creative Vera creates her tale of "the great tragedy." 

During the rising action, Vera weaves her tale about Mrs. Sappleton's husband and her two young brothers who went out to hunt but never returned. Unfortunately, when they crossed the moor on their way to their favorite snipe-shooting ground, they were all "engulfed in a treacherous piece of bog." Vera tells Framton Nuttel that no bodies were recovered: "Poor aunt always thinks that they will come back someday. That is why the window is kept open...I almost get a creepy feeling that they will walk in through that window." Then, Mrs. Sappleton finally comes into the room. Just as Vera has told Nuttel, her aunt anticipates the return of her husband and her brothers. She apologizes for the open window, explaining that her husband and brothers will be home soon, and she likes for them come in through the window so that they and their wet things stay off the carpets.

In the climax, Mrs. Sappleton has "rattled on cheerfully about the shooting and the scarcity of birds." She has also listened to the ailments of Framton Nuttel. But, "suddenly [she] brightened into alert attention." "Here they are at last!" she exclaims. Vera stares out the window "with dazed horror in her eyes." Framton swings around in "a chill shock of nameless fear" and looks in the same direction as the others. In the twilight, there are three figures walking toward the open window. "Here we are, my dear," says the man. "...fairly muddy, but most of it's dry. Who was that who bolted out as we came up?" [Framton has run out of the room.]

During the Falling Action, Framton Nuttel has fled in terror after running out of the room, because Vera's tall tale has become real for him. The naive Mrs. Sappleton observes that he is a "most extraordinary man....One would think he had seen a ghost." The devious Vera calmly suggests that Nuttel has a fear of the dogs. 

With the Denouement, the question of why Framton Nuttel has run off is supposedly explained by Vera. She fabricates her last story about Nuttel's once having been hunted by "a pack of pariah dogs" on the banks of the Ganges River in India as the cause of his fear. Indeed, "[R]omance at short notice was her specialty." No one is the wiser about Vera.

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Exposition: This is the part of the story that gives the time and place and introduces the characters.  This story takes place at Sappleton House in the country.  We are introduced  to Framton Nuttel, a man visiting the country to cure a nervous condition, and 15-year-old Vera.

Inciting Incident: This is the event that starts the problem.  Vera tells Framton Nuttel about the death of her aunt's husband and brothers on a hunting expedition three years ago.  She tells him the window is open because her aunt believes they are returning one day, and this is the anniversary of their death.

Rising Action: This part of the story adds to the problem and leads to the climax.  Mrs. Sappleton enters the room and apologizes to Mr. Nuttel for the open window, explaining that her husband and brothers will be returning from their hunt soon and enter the house through the window.  Mr. Nuttel casts a sympathetic look in Vera's direction, but she is gazing in horror out the window.

Climax: This is where the problem is resolved.  Mr. Sappleton comes through the window and greets his wife.  Mr. Nuttel leaves quickly, almost running into a cyclist coming down the road.

Resolution: This is where we find out what happened.  Mr. Sappleton wonders why Mr. Nuttel left so quickly, and Vera tells another tale about how Mr. Nuttel was afraid of dogs since he was chased by one into a newly formed grave in India and had to spend the night there.  The author lets us know that she had a lively imagination.

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