What is the situational irony in "The Open Window" by Saki?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Let us remind ourselves of the definition of situational irony. Situational irony is a specific form of irony that describes an occurrrence that is the opposite of what we expected. An example would be a rags-to-riches story, where the poor beggar suddenly inherits a fabulous fortune, or its reverse. Clearly, when thinking about this excellent story by Saki, there are a number of different kinds of irony. The situational irony though that is most important (especially to Mr. Framton Nuttel), comes when, after Vera has told Framton about the terrible tragedy of her uncle and cousins, and we, like Framton, are led to believe that her aunt is somewhat deranged with grief, these supposedly deceased members of the family walk straight in through the open window just as they would have if they were still alive. Note the response to this event:

Framton grabbed wildly at his stick and hat; the hall door, the gravel drive, and the front gate were dimly noted stages in his headlong retreat. A cyclist coming along the road had to run into the hedge to avoid imminent collision.

Clearly, the situational irony of the story is a great shock for Framton Nuttel, and given his delicate nervous condition, we are left thinking that Vera is rather cruel for the amusement she takes in tricking him.

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The theme of this story might be stated as: There is no place on earth where you can find permanent peace, quiet, and security. The main irony is that Nuttel has come to this peaceful part of rural England looking for peace and quiet but finds himself in a household apparently haunted by ghosts with a hostess who appears to be a lunatic. This is situational irony. The facts that the three hunters are not really dead and the hostess is not really crazy are inconsequential, since Framton flees the house believing he is escaping from ghosts and his nervous condition is now much worse than before. Irony is like a bad joke. In this story the irony really is funny, so the irony is like "black humor."


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mimihorselover | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

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Thank you very much! I wish i would have seen this sooner! 10th grade now! EVEN HARDER! =)