The Open Window Study Guide
Introduction to The Open Window
“The Open Window” is a 1914 short story by Saki, otherwise known as Hector Hugh Munro. It offers readers a unique blend of situational irony, comedy, and mild horror in order to emphasize the disparity between appearances and reality. Framton, the story’s gullible viewpoint character, is led to believe that his host, Mrs. Sappleton, is mentally deranged. This farce is orchestrated by Mrs. Sappleton’s niece, Vera, who preys on Framton’s ignorance and gullibility. Though Vera’s intentions do not seem to be overtly malicious, her easy manipulations of both Frampton and her relatives highlights the ways in which one person can obscure reality using half-truths and outright falsities.
On a metafictional level, “The Open Window” is a commentary on the ways in which storytelling relies on both a suspension of disbelief and a lack of context. For most of the story, readers are given only Framton’s perspective, setting up the ironic reveal that everything Vera has said is false. Readers are then made privy to the fact that Vera has perpetuated a new lie to her relatives in order to explain Framton’s sudden departure. Vera’s reshaping of the narrative is representative of how fiction operates, and Saki asks readers to question their own approach to reading and writing stories, including the degree to which they are willing to suspend disbelief.
A Brief Biography of Saki
Hector Hugo Munro (1870–1916), who published all of his fiction under the pseudonym Saki, was a British writer known for his short stories, which satirized contemporary society and politics. Munro was born in the British colony of Burma—now known as Myanmar—but was raised, along with his siblings, in England by his puritanical aunts. After Munro’s father retired from his diplomatic post in Burma, the family toured around Europe. Munro originally attempted to follow his father’s career path, but he fell ill while abroad in Burma and returned permanently to England to begin working as a writer. He started his career as a journalist and experienced a series of false starts. His first major success began with the publication of his collaborative episodic work, The Westminster Alice, a series of political satires modeled after Alice in Wonderland. This was also the first work to be published under the Saki pseudonym. Munro spent the following years as a prolific and popular short story writer before he was killed during World War I after enlisting as a trooper—despite being past the compulsory age. Several works were published posthumously, including pieces he wrote while on the frontlines of WWI. His best-known stories include "The Open Window," "The Interlopers," and "The Mouse."