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Vera is a bored fifteen-year-old girl who is having fun at Mr. Framton's expense. Framton has come to the country to take a rest because he is having a nervous breakdown. A nervous breakdown is an emotional disorder so he is rather unstable when he shows up. He does not know the Sappleton's. His sister gave him a letter of introduction to them so that he would not be alone, and he would know someone around him.
"Privately he doubted more than ever whether these formal visits on a succession of total strangers would do much towards helping the nerve cure which he was supposed to be undergoing." (page 1)
When Vera finds out that he doesn't know anyone in the area,including her aunt, her active imagination takes over. She tells him that her aunt had a great tragedy three years ago. She points to the open window. She explains to Framton that her aunt's husband and two young brothers left through that window to go hunting three years ago on this very day. They never returned, and their bodies were never recovered. She tells Framton that her aunt continues to think they will return, and she keeps the window open so that they could return. This whole scenario is a product of Vera's imagination.
When the aunt finally shows up, she excuses the open window explaining that her husband and brothers will be returning soon from hunting and they always come in through the window. Framton tells her,
"The doctors agree in ordering me complete rest, an absence of mental excitement, and avoidance of anything in the nature of violent physical exercise." (page 2)
However, when he is telling the aunt this, he notices that her eyes keep going to the window, and that she is half listening to him. She is bored with stories of his illness. Finally she brightens as the hunters come toward the window. Vera gives Framton a look that shows sympathy for her aunt. However, when Framton looks out the window, here come the three men and the dog. Thinking that the men were ghosts, he grabs his stick and hat and gets out of there.
The fact is that the men never died, they just went hunting. Vera had just made up that story. When the adults start talking about why Mr. Framton had left in such a hurry, Vera, again, invents a story. She tells the adults she is sure it is because of the dog.
"He was once hunted into a cemetery somewhere on the banks of the Ganges by a pack of pariah dogs and had to spend the night in a newly dug grave with the creatures snarling and grinning and foaming just above him." (page 3)
Again, her overactive imagination has taken over, and she is telling stories. Saki confirms this with the last line of the story.
"Romance at short notice was her speciality." (last line)
In plotting his ghost story, Saki showed his remarkable talent for details. The three men who appear at the end of the tale did not simply go out for a stroll. They were all hunters, which meant that they would all be carrying shotguns. Saki set the story in an English countryside to explain all the interest in hunting various kinds of birds. He came up with the idea of having an open French window because he wanted the three returning men to be headed straight towards where the viewpoint character Framton Nuttel was sitting. Normally such hunters would probably enter by a back door and at least take off their boots before going into the living room for tea. There is a great deal of discussion of the "open window" before the hunters appear, so that the reader does not question why they are going to walk straight into the living room in their wet clothes and muddy boots. This is probably why Saki titles his story "The Open Window" and features it in the setting throughout the story. He wants the reader to accept the fact that the tall window would be standing open and that they men would be expected to return through it.
Framton has two reasons for grabbing his walking stick and running out of the house. One of these is that he believes the three men are ghosts returning from the dead. But another reason for his being so terrified is that all three of them are carrying guns. Ghosts are bad enough, but ghosts carrying guns are much worse. Framton is really afraid of getting shot. He thinks he is in danger from the moment the men appear outside, because they could all start firing at him any time they wanted to. The fact that the big French window has been standing wide open ever since Framton arrived indicates that he has no protection whatever. The men can walk right into the living room carrying their guns.
Framton is characterized as a very nervous man. He would be nervous enough just being introduced to three strange men in a strange setting. These situations are always a little awkward for all of us. But to be confronted by three strangers who supposedly died several years ago, and strangers who are all armed with guns, would be too much.
There have been many ghost stories invented in which a person dies of fright, either because he sees a ghost or thinks he has seen a ghost. Saki gives his ghost story a comical twist by making his viewpoint character stay very much alive after encountering, not one, but three ghosts and then running off down the country road with a surprising burst of energy.
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