The Open Window Critical Overview
by Saki

The Open Window book cover
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Critical Overview

(Short Stories for Students)

Saki has been known for decades as a master of the short story form. In his "Introduction" to The Penguin Complete Saki, Noel Coward finds that Saki's tales "are dated only by the fact that they evoke an atmosphere and describe a society which vanished in the baleful summer of 1914." Saki may belong to a particular time, and his pen may have been stopped in the trenches of World War I, but his stories have a broad appeal that continues to this day. His story "The Open Window" is one of the most frequently anthologized stones in the English language. Biographies and critical assessments of Saki's stories often treat ''The Open Window'' very succinctly. One reason for the comparative lack of critical attention paid to this tale, as compared to that paid to other stories whose influence has extended so far, may be its brevity. That is, critics may find it difficult to write a lengthy analysis of something that is itself only a few pages long. Nevertheless, several critics have made interesting, if brief, observations about the story and about Saki's writing in general that contribute to one of the most enduring controversies surrounding "The Open Window": whether the reader should consider Vera's storytelling an act of malice. An unsigned review in The Spectator of Beasts and Super-Beasts, the volume of short stories in which "The Open Window" appeared, says of the volume that "[a]s a handbook of the gentle art of dealing faithfully with social nuisances. . [it] is quite unique.'' One might consider Framton Nuttel just such a nuisance, whom Vera dispatches with great delight and efficiency. The same reviewer, however, criticizes Saki, calling him "not an immoral, but for the most part a non-moral writer, with a freakish wit which leads him at times into inhumanity." Vera's treatment of Nuttel can be read as an instance of such "inhumanity." The reviewer concludes of Saki that "we like him best when he is least malicious." Though this review does not refer to Vera specifically as an example of such malice, John Daniel Stahl suggests as much in his 1977 essay "Saki's Enfant...

(The entire section is 533 words.)