The main characters in “The Open Window” are Framton Nuttel, Vera Sappleton, and Mrs. Sappleton.
- Framton Nuttel has moved to the country in the hopes that its relaxing atmosphere will soothe his nerves. He is utterly deceived by Vera’s story and flees the house when he believes he has seen ghosts.
- Vera Sappleton is a “self-possessed” fifteen-year-old girl who is adept at inventing stories and who terrifies Framton with her tale about the open window.
- Mrs. Sappleton is Vera’s aunt. She is a cheerful woman who attempts to engage Framton in light conversation and is surprised by his sudden exit.
Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 957
Framton Nuttel is the protagonist and viewpoint character of the story. His background, occupation, and age are unknown. He has recently moved to the unnamed rural area in which the story is set. It is suggested that this move is part of a “nerve cure” that has been prescribed to Framton for his nerves. Framton reflects on his recent move, musing on his sister’s remarks that he will isolate himself and make his nerves “worse than ever from moping.” These remarks indicate that Framton has a solitary and melancholic disposition. The former characteristic is reinforced by his trepidation when faced with the prospect of meeting his new neighbors through letters of introduction drafted by his sister. His lack of gregariousness can be further seen in his halting conversation with Vera.
Framton appears to be quite fixated on his medical issues. Near the start of the story, his thoughts revolve around his nerve cure, and in his short conversation with Mrs. Sappleton, he tries to steer the conversation in the direction of the same topic. Mrs. Sappleton finds the topic extremely boring and must stifle a yawn.
Framton also reveals himself to be gullible and easily frightened. He believes Vera’s story about the disappearance of Mrs. Sappleton’s husband and brothers. When Framton sees the arrival of the three hunters, he frantically runs away rather than stay and try to understand what has happened. The degree of his fright is indicated by his near collision with a cyclist during his hasty exit. It is possible that Framton’s apparent fearfulness is related to his nerve issues, though the connection is never made explicit.
Vera Sappleton’s is Mrs. Sappleton’s niece. She is described as a “self-possessed young lady of fifteen.” It is Vera who greets Framton at the door of the Sappleton home while her aunt is temporarily occupied.
The conversation between Vera and Framton, which makes up the first half of the story, shows the contrast between the two characters’ personalities. Whereas Framton is uncomfortable and self-conscious, Vera is bold and cunning. Whereas Framton has a gullible and literal mind, Vera’s is creative and quick.
Perhaps the central aspect of Vera’s character is her penchant for telling tall tales. Twice in the story, she takes elements in her environment and quickly cobbles together a story that will deceive her listeners. In the first instance, she takes the elements of the open French window, the absence of the three hunters, and Framton’s ignorance to weave together a tragic story about the hunters’ deaths and Mrs. Sappleton’s delusional grief. Later in the story, after Framton has left the house in fright, Vera quickly invents a story about Framton being afraid of dogs due to his being chased by a pack of dogs long ago.
Due to her adeptness in inventing tales in short order, Vera is the engine of “The Open Window.” Her false tale creates the situational irony at the heart of the short story. It also drives Framton’s inexplicable flight and also deceives readers, who only learn the truth about the hunters’ absence at the end of the story. The final sentence of the story nods to Vera’s storytelling gifts: “Romance at short notice was her speciality.”
Mrs. Sappleton is Vera’s aunt. She is an acquaintance of Framton’s sister, who has arranged for Framton to meet Mrs. Sappleton by equipping him with a letter of introduction. Framton knows nothing about Mrs. Sappleton in advance, except that she is one of the acquaintances whom his sister has described as “quite nice.”
Mrs. Sappleton is absent for the first...
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half of the story, during which time Vera tells Framton a false tale about Mrs. Sappleton’s “great tragedy,” which involves the deaths of her husband and brothers. Thus, when Framton meets Mrs. Sappleton, his—as well as readers’—impression of her is framed by this falsehood. Mrs. Sappleton emerges energetically and remarks that she left the window open, because she is expecting her husband and brothers to return shortly. In truth, Mrs. Sappleton’s remark is entirely normal; framed by Vera’s story, her remark is a sign of utter delusion.
In turn, Mrs. Sappleton’s reaction to Framton is one of boredom and perplexity. She is at first bored when he talks about his nerve cure. She is then perplexed when he inexplicably flees from the house in terror.
Four years before the story, Framton’s sister lived in the area Framton has recently moved to. She stayed at the local rectory, indicating that she is a member of the clergy or has some other relation to the church. She has drafted letters of introduction in order to help Framton meet some of the acquaintances she made during her residence. She has apparently done so out of a concern that Framton will remain solitary and worsen his nerves by “moping.”
Mr. Sappleton is Mrs. Sappleton’s husband, who has gone hunting for the day. Framton believes Vera’s story that Mr. Sappleton was killed while walking through a moor three years earlier, but he returns to the house through the open French window, frightening Framton. Vera’s details about the hunters—including Mr. Sappleton’s white coat—make their return all the more chilling to Framton.
Mrs. Sappleton’s Brothers
Mrs. Sappleton’s brothers have gone hunting for the day with Mr. Sappleton. They are described as being younger than Mrs. Sappleton. One of them, whose name is Ronnie, utters the same remark on his return from hunting that, according to Vera, he uttered on his departure. This detail seems to frighten Framton all the more.