illustration of a young girl looking out a window at ghostly figures

The Open Window

by Saki

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Student Question

Why does Mrs. Sappleton refer to the open window in Saki's "The Open Window"? Does it support Vera's story?

Expert Answers

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Before Mrs. Sappleton comes down, Vera says to Framton:

"You may wonder why we keep that window wide open on an October afternoon."

Then she tells him the story about the deaths of Mrs. Sappleton's husband and her own two young brothers (who would be Mrs. Sappleton's nephews).

So it is October, and it would be unusual to leave a big window wide open in England that late in the year. That is why both Vera and her aunt refer to it. But Saki wanted to call particular attention  to that open French window, which is why he titled his story "The Open Window." Both Vera and her aunt will be staring at it when the three "ghosts" appear outside. The hunters will be headed straight for the open window, and the fact that it is open will add to Framton's terror.

When Mrs. Sappleton calls attention to the open window, she tells a story which is somewhat similar to the made-up story told by young Vera. Mrs. Sappleton explains that she is expecting the three hunters to return, which is exactly what Vera has already told him. However, the aunt expects them to return from one day in the field, whereas Vera told Framton that she has been expecting them for three years.

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H.H. Munro wrote his most celebrated works under the pen name of “Saki”. In the provocative short story, “The Open Window,” Mr. Framton Nuttel has come to visit Mrs. Sappelton at the suggestion of his sister, who hopes to help him achieve a “nerve cure.” Vera, the fifteen year old niece of Mrs. Sappleton, decides to entertain herself by telling Mr. Nuttel lie. She tells him that her aunt experienced a personal tragedy a few years ago. She elaborates with a falsified story her aunt’s great tragedy. She tells Mr. Nuttel that Mrs. Sappleton leaves the window open in the vain hope that her husband and her brothers will return from the swamp. She tells Mr. Nuttel, however, that the four men died in the marsh three years ago. Young Vera tells Mr. Nuttel that she laments her aunt’s irrational expectation.  Mr. Nuttel, who suffers from an anxiety disorder, believes her.  Therefore, when Mrs. Sappleton finally comes downstairs and makes this statement, Mr. Nuttel becomes unhinged. Vera’s untruth appears completely believable.

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