The Open Window Analysis


Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The story is told from the third-person point of view, limited in the opening paragraphs to the naïve perception of Mr. Nuttel, who is tricked by Vera’s mischievous fantasy. Because the fantasy is so bizarre and inventive and totally unexpected from a fifteen-year-old girl, the reader is also momentarily duped. Vera’s practical joke, which borders on being cruel, is perfectly consistent. When Mr. Sappleton and the brothers are seen returning from the hunt, she pretends to be horrified. The reader, like Framton Nuttel himself, can only assume, therefore, that this is a supernatural event.

The narrator stays in the house, however, after Mr. Nuttel’s frightened and abrupt departure, so as to reveal the ironic twist and to enjoy Vera’s second demonstration of her ability to produce “romance at short notice,” when she explains to her aunt and uncle that Mr. Nuttel has “a horror of dogs” because of an imagined incident he had in a cemetery in India. By this time the reader has reason to doubt that Mr. Nuttel would be adventuresome enough to travel to India.

Vera clearly has a talent for ornamenting the ordinary and the commonplace, and she is too quick-witted to tolerate boredom. She first makes Mr. Nuttel think that her aunt is a lunatic, then tricks him into a state of panic and fear, taking advantage of the poor man’s nervous disorder. Vera is not only “self-possessed” but also clever. Before setting her trap, she is careful to ascertain that Mr. Nuttel knows “practically nothing” about her aunt or her family.

Saki satirizes Mr. Nuttel’s banality in this miniature comedy of manners, lacing his treatment with his typical dry wit and malice and allowing his characters to reveal themselves through meticulously crafted dialogue. Saki has been ranked with O. Henry as a master of the surprise ending, and no less a craftsperson than Noël Coward, in his introduction to The Complete Works of Saki (1976), praised “The Open Window” as a masterpiece of high comedy.

The Open Window

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Armed with a letter of introduction, Framton Nuttel is visiting Mrs. Sappleton’s country estate for a “nerve cure.” Mr. Nuttel is greeted by the niece, Vera, a polite “self-possessed young lady of fifteen,” who begins telling him about her aunt’s great tragedy. Pointing to the open French window, Vera (Latin, meaning “truth”) spins a yarn about her aunt’s husband and two brothers who went out through the window on a hunting trip through the moors fifteen years earlier and never returned. The aunt keeps the window open in expectation of their imminent return.

Suddenly the aunt enters. Over the civilities of tea and polite conversation, she alludes to the hunting trip, and Mr. Nuttel becomes gradually unnerved. When, indeed, the hunting party returns, Nuttel, as if he had seen ghosts, flees. The niece, we learn, had told the truth about the hunters, but had made up the part about their disappearance. They had simply gone out that morning, but, says Saki, Vera was incorrigible. “Romance at short notice was her specialty.”

At first glance the story appears to be a mere joke; but “THE OPEN WINDOW” can be reread with pleasure because of its masterful tone--a finely honed, polite restraint with only a hint of a smirk on the authorial face.

Finally, the narrative works as a parody of the traditional ghost story. Vera’s yarn has all the trimmings of the standard mystery--the journey on the moors, the mysterious disappearance, even Mr. Nuttel’s role as scared listener. In the end, the tradition is subverted. Romance is but a prank.

Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

Saki does not specify when his story takes place, but it is obvious that the story is set in Edwardian England, the period of time early in...

(The entire section is 243 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The story is set entirely in one room of an English country home belonging to Mr. and Mrs. Sappleton. While no specific dates are mentioned...

(The entire section is 48 words.)

Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

"The Open Window" is the story of a deception, perpetrated on an unsuspecting, and constitutionally nervous man, by a young lady whose...

(The entire section is 355 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The most remarkable of Saki's devices in "The Open Window" is his construction of the story's narrative. The structure of the story is that...

(The entire section is 315 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

In the early years of the twentieth century England was at the peak of its colonial power, and its people enjoyed wealth and confidence...

(The entire section is 210 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

1910s: A rest in the country is often recommended for those city-dwellers suffering from nervous disorders.


(The entire section is 142 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. What makes Vera's fabricated story so convincing: the listener's gullibility, her detailed description of the hunters, her nonchalant...

(The entire section is 114 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Compare and contrast Saki's portrayal of English country life with depictions by such writers as E. M. Forster and P. G. Wodehouse.


(The entire section is 167 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

What different things does the open window in the story symbolize to the characters? Give some other examples of symbols that mean different...

(The entire section is 112 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Richard Patterson directed a film adaptation of "The Open Window" in 1971. Produced by the American Film Institute, it is a twelve-minute...

(The entire section is 104 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Short Stories for Students)

Richard Patterson directed a film adaptation of "The Open Window" in 1971. Produced by the American Film Institute, it is a 12-minute short....

(The entire section is 68 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

For more of Saki's fiction, consult The Penguin Complete Saki, published by Penguin Books in 1982, originally published by Doubleday...

(The entire section is 149 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)

Coward, Noel, "Introduction," The Penguin Complete Saki London: Penguin Books, 1982 Reprint of the 1976 edition...

(The entire section is 151 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Forbes, Alexander Malcolm. "H. H. Munro. " In Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 162: British Short-Fiction Writers, 1915-1945....

(The entire section is 113 words.)