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

The Open Window

by Saki
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What is the message of the story "The Open Window"?

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If there is a message in Saki’s “The Open Window ,” it could perhaps be a message that storytelling is an art. Using a story within a story, Saki uses fifteen-year-old Vera as the master storyteller who gets the best of Mr. Nuttel. Vera sees her opportunity when...

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If there is a message in Saki’s “The Open Window,” it could perhaps be a message that storytelling is an art. Using a story within a story, Saki uses fifteen-year-old Vera as the master storyteller who gets the best of Mr. Nuttel. Vera sees her opportunity when she realizes that Mr. Nuttel knows nothing about her aunt, Mrs. Sappleton.

In the first sentence of the story, Vera is described as a “self-possessed young lady.” As Vera tells her tale, the reader becomes aware of a change in her. Saki states that, “Here the child’s voice lost its self-possessed note and became falteringly human.” She ends the story with a shudder. These details lend credibility to Vera’s story.

Vera, with perfect timing, ends her story just as her aunt enters the room. The reader now returns to the original story and learns that Mrs. Sappleton is quite bored with Mr. Nuttel’s self-absorbed talk. She seems to be preoccupied with the French window. Finally, as she remarks that her husband and brothers are returning, Mr. Nuttel notes a look of “dazed terror” on Vera’s face. Believing that he is seeing ghosts, he flees from the house. In another example of excellent timing, Vera explains that he must be afraid of the dog, based on a story she says he shared. Saki then informs the reader that “Romance at short notice was her specialty.” This statement provides further evidence that the author values the art of telling a good story.

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One message to the reader of "The Open Window" is that it is often difficult to decipher the truth in a person's narrative about an incident. Moreover, those who possess such talent of being able to weave cleverly deceptive tales can easily manipulate others.

Vera, whose name suggests truth, possesses the "specialty" to create  "[R]omance at short notice." Her talent lies in her ability to identify susceptibilities in her audience and then blur the lines between reality and creativity in order to weave her tale so that it will have disturbing effects upon her listener(s).

When she is sent to entertain Mrs. Sappleton's guest, Framton Nuttel, Vera first ascertains whether he is acquainted with the area or anyone living there. When Nuttel replies that he knows "[H]ardly a soul," Vera immediately recognizes that she can unleash her spectacular imagination and weave a gothic tale of her uncle and cousins' having been lost in a bog with such verve that it will both captivate and, then, as its denouement becomes reality, terrify the neurotic guest.

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