What techniques are evident in the short story "The Open Window" by Saki?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Saki's short story "The Open Window" employs the technique of a frame story that has another within it.  Added to this structure, the narrative is written as a tall tale with irony and connotation.


Vera's name is misleading for Framton Nuttel since the name Vera is a derivative of the Latin word veritas, or truth.  The tall-tale that she weaves revolves around the open window, which of itself connotes candor and honesty.  The connotation of the name and the window contribute to the effect of Vera's tall-tale as Nuttel gullibly becomes horrified when he views Vera's frightened appearance as she sees the men.  


Vera's tale is replete with verbal irony as she makes use of the open window for her devious story as well as the Stappleton men away on a hunt to twist the meaning of their day's adventure.  After Framton Nuttel panicks and runs off, Mrs. Stappleton herself is faced with the irony of her guest's departure.  But, she remarks superciliously in an example of situational irony,

"A most extraordinary man...could only talk about his illnesses, and dashed off without a word of goodbye or apology...one would think he had seen a ghost."
jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The short story "The Open Window" uses a kind of unreliable narrator, or more specifically, an unreliable presentation of events, so that the audience is misled. When Framton Nuttel pays a call on a country family, the niece tells him a lie--that her aunt's husband and his brothers went off shooting several years ago and never returned. For this reason, the niece says, her aunt leaves her window open. When the husband and his brothers return, Framton runs out in fright. It is not until the end of the story, when the aunt wonders why Framton left the room so suddenly and Saki writes, " Romance at short notice was her speciality," that the reader realizes that the niece's story was a lie. The sequence of events in the story presents the reader with false information that is not corrected until the end of the tale.

The other technique that Saki uses in the story is the symbol of the open window. At first, the window stands for the aunt's supposed delusions about the return of her missing husband and his friends. Later, the open window becomes the conduit through which the husband enters and scares Frampton, so the window is a symbol of Frampton's delusions and misconceptions of the situation.