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

The Open Window

by Saki

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Identify some symbols in "The Open Window" and explain them.

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In the story, the open window is symbolic, it is at the heart of the tall tale that Vera tells Framton Nuttel.  She leads him to believe that the open window is a memorial, left open to honor her dead uncles who were lost in the bog three years ago.  The open window is also a symbol of hope, the hope that Mrs. Sappleton has that the hunting party would return.  She leaves the window open so they can enter the house just the way they always did after a hunting trip.

If you want to get into looking for serious symbolism, I think that you could say that the Sappleton home is symbolic of the real world that Nuttel cannot cope with and that Vera is a typical stranger he encounters in every day life. He is easily persuaded to believe anything, even the silly story that Vera tells.  

Now, Nuttel is a grown man, and yet he allows himself to be taken in by a 15 year old girl who uses him to entertain herself, by inventing a fairy tale about ghosts rising out of the swamp. 

The hunting party could also be viewed as other aspects of life that frighten Nuttel, anything unexpected, not planned seems to unnerve him.  When Mrs. Sappleton comes down the stairs, finally, Nuttel is so charged up, terrified, that he can barely speak to her in a civil tone.  This is symbolic of how inferior he feels around other people, especially strangers.

Vera is more mature than Nuttel, she is certainly more creative.  Mrs. Sappleton gives Nuttel a clue as to Vera's personality when she asks if Vera has kept him entertained.  He appears to have no ability to discern that the young girl is teasing him. 

These are just my own thoughts, I enjoy looking for deeper interpretations in literature! 

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Framton Nuttel himself can be considered a symbol.  There is obviously something wrong with him (either he's stressed or has some sort of mental imbalance) and the way he acts at the end of the story (running out of the house) is rather crazy.  His last name is NUTtel, as in calling someone who is crazy a nut.

The window is also a symbol for freedom. Vera, as a young lady at the turn of the century, had many limitations on what she could and couldn't not do.  She took advantage of the opportunity the open window presented her to entertain herself (though, at Framton's expense).

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What are examples of symbolism in "The Open Window"?

There are obvious and more subtle symbols in Saki's sardonic story on the vulnerability of people. Here are three:

1-2. The open window is the most obvious symbol as well as the most important. For, it provides the framework, literally and symbolically, for Vera's tall-tale that so frightens the timorous Framton Nuttel. (1) The fact that the window is open deceptively symbolizes the emptiness of Mrs. Stappleton's life and her hopelessness.

"Out through that window, three years ago to a day, her husband and her...

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two young borther went of for their day's shooting. They never came back.

(2) It also symbolizes honesty and spiritual openness, allowing Vera to spin a deceptively fantastic lie about her relatives being dead when, in fact, they are alive.

3. Vera's name is also symbolic of her deception as it is a Latin form of the word veritas, which means truth. Thus, her name acts as another smokescreen for her deceptive tale. After the terrified Nuttel flees when the supposedly dead male Sappletons walk through the French doors/window and Vera offers another fabricated explanation to her aunt, Saki, who satirized the Ewardians of his age, adds sardonically, "Romance at short notice was her specialty." 

4, Another thing that may be considered a symbol is the bog since Vera tells Framton Nuttel that Mrs. Sappleton's family "were all three engulfed in a treacherous piece of bog." Here the word bog can symbolize Vera's falseness intended to "bog" Nuttel down in her tall-tale, preventing him from perceiving the truth.

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