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

The Open Window

by Saki

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Key Elements and Central Conflict in "The Open Window" by Saki

Summary:

The key elements in "The Open Window" include irony, deception, and the theme of appearance versus reality. The central conflict revolves around Vera's fabricated story about the tragic disappearance of her aunt's husband and brothers, which causes Mr. Nuttel to flee in terror when they unexpectedly return, believing them to be ghosts.

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What is the climax of "The Open Window"?

In a work of literature, the climax is the moment of the most tension in the story, the result of the conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist. In this story, that moment arrives when Mrs. Sappleton’s husband and two younger brothers arrive home from a day of snipe shooting. The protagonist, Framton Nuttel, was provided a letter of introduction from his sister to Mrs. Sappleton so that he would refrain from “burying himself” in his lodgings, alone and avoiding human interaction. Framton, apparently, does not do well with other people and especially strangers, as they make him nervous.

Vera, Mrs. Sappleton’s niece, greets Framton at the house, and once she understands that he’s a stranger to her aunt and an anxious person to boot, she invents a story about the men having died and her aunt continuing to believe that they will one day return. This way, when the men do return home, Framton will believe that they are dead and that what he’s seeing are their ghosts. Vera seems to hope that, since he is already nervous, he will completely lose all sense of propriety and react in some amusing way, and he does.

Framton grabbed wildly at his stick and hat; the hall door, the gravel drive, and the front gate were dimly noted stages in his headlong retreat. A cyclist coming along the road had to run into the hedge to avoid an imminent collision.

This is the moment of the most tension in the story.

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What is the climax of "The Open Window"?

The climax is the highest point of tension in a story and the moment when a problem is faced or solved. In Saki's celebrated short story "The Open Window," the exposition includes Mr. Nuttel introducing himself to Mrs. Sappleton's niece Vera, who is an imaginative, mischievous young girl. The exposition explains Framton Nuttel's condition and situation concerning his visit to the countryside in hopes of resting his nerves. The rising action begins after Vera asks Framton some probing questions and proceeds to tell him an elaborate, fabricated tale of why her aunt leaves her large French window open. Vera mentions that three years ago, Mrs. Sappleton's husband and two brothers went out shooting and drowned in a treacherous bog. According to Vera, her aunt never fully recovered from the traumatic experience and believes that they will one day walk through the window.

The climax of the story takes place when Mrs. Sappleton's husband and two brothers begin walking towards the large French window. Framton is under the impression that the men are actually ghosts and looks towards Vera for confirmation. Vera pretends to be horrified and Saki writes,

Framton shivered slightly and turned towards the niece with a look intended to convey sympathetic comprehension. The child was staring out through the open window with dazed horror in her eyes. In a chill shock of nameless fear Framton swung round in his seat and looked in the same direction. (2)

Framton is overcome with fear and immediately sprints out of the house without saying goodbye. Overall, the climax of the story is when Vera's fabricated tale coincides with the arrival of her uncles, which gives the impression that three ghosts are walking towards the home and terrifies the neurotic Framton Nuttel.

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What is the climax of "The Open Window"?

The climax of "The Open Window" occurs when Vera stares out the open window with "dazed horror" in her eyes. Framton Nuttel then feels a "shock of nameless fear" and quickly turns in his seat to peer in the same direction; in the twilight he is able to make out three figures who approach this window.

At the beginning of Saki's story, Framton Nuttel sits and talks to the niece of Mrs. Stappleton, his hostess, the girl asks if he knows anyone in the area. When Nuttel replies that he knows no one, the niece, Vera, realizes that she can tell Nuttel a tall tale and he will not know that it is not true. So, she spins a narrative around the open window and Mrs. Stappleton's husband and her two younger brothers who are out hunting and due to return as evening falls. According to Vera, the men were lost on the moor when they were "engulfed in a treacherous piece of bog" that terribly wet summer.

So, when Vera looks out the window in horror, Nuttel is frightened by her expression. Then, when he peers through the darkening evening and detects three figures, Nuttel is absolutely terrified and jumps up.

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What is the climax of "The Open Window"?

The climax comes in the last sentences of the story when Vera begins make up another story, this time about why Nuttel left so suddenly. The author writes, "Romance at a short notice was her [Vera's] specialty". The reader finally realizes that Vera also made up the story of the husband's death in order to scare Nuttel when the husband returns. We also discover how deceptive and cunning Vera can be, which is the whole point of the story.

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What is the climax of "The Open Window"?

The high point of the story comes just as the three hunters are returning. Mrs. Sappleton, who Framton Nuttel thinks is insane, cries:

"Here they are at last!....Just in time for tea, and don't they look as if they were muddy up to the eyes!"

Framton doesn't believe the woman can see anybody out there, since they have been dead for three years. Instead of looking out through the open window, he turns to Vera "with a look intended to convey sympathetic comprehension." But she is looking out the window with "dazed horror in her eyes." So finally Framton looks out the window and sees three men approaching the house, all carrying shotguns.

Vera's expression is particularly effective because she has been so "self-possessed" up to that point. She is, of course, faking the "dazed horror," but the situation is so complicated that Framton can't conceive of it being a practical joke. The aunt says, "Here they are at last!" and Vera fakes a look of "dazed horror," and Framton sees three men approaching outside. All of this happens almost simultaneously. Framton is already self-described as a bundle of nerves, and he is long gone before the reader finds out that it was all an elaborate hoax.

The high point is that moment when Framton looks from Mrs. Sappleton to Vera to the window and sees what he believes must be living dead men who have managed to pull themselves out of the bog after three years. When Mrs. Sappleton says, "And don't they look as if they were muddy up to the eyes!" it only enhances the impression that they have just gotten out of that bog. And the fact that all three men are carrying guns makes them seem all the more menacing.

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What is the conflict in "The Open Window"?

The main problem in "The Open Window" is that Framton Nuttel seems to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. The other characters--Vera, Mrs. Sappleton, and the three male hunters--do not have any obvious problems at all. So the problem has to be Framton Nuttel's. He explains it to Mrs. Sappleton when she comes down.

"The doctors agree in ordering me complete rest, an absence of mental excitement, and avoidance of anything in the nature of violent physical exercise," announced Framton, who laboured under the tolerably widespread delusion that total strangers and chance acquaintances are hungry for the least detail of one's ailments and infirmities, their cause and cure. "On the matter of diet they are not so much in agreement," he continued.

In order to try to solve his problem, Framton has come from London to the English countryside in accordance with the advice of his doctors. Framton might have found a quiet place where he could have lived by himself, but his sister, who recommended this part of the country, insists on his meeting a few of the local residents.

"I know how it will be," his sister had said when he was preparing to migrate to this rural retreat; "you will bury yourself down there and not speak to a living soul, and your nerves will be worse than ever from moping. I shall just give you letters of introduction to all the people I know there. Some of them, as far as I can remember, were quite nice."

Framton might have been better off living in complete seclusion. But evidently he thinks it couldn't hurt to have tea with some of the simple country folk and spend a hour or so engaged in polite conversation. He doesn't realize that he is walking into a nuthouse. These people are not simple country folk but rather zany. Vera is only fifteen years old but has a wild imagination and a mischievous spirit. Her aunt is rattlebrained. The three hunters think about nothing but killing birds, and one of them keeps singing the crazy phrase: "I said, Bertie, why do you bound?"

Framton's problem is never solved. His meeting with Vera and her aunt, and his encounter with three "ghosts," only make his problem worse. He will be afraid to use any more of his sister's letters of introduction. He may decide to return to London immediately. No doubt he was already paranoid before the incident described in the story; but he will be considerably more paranoid in the future.

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What is the conflict in "The Open Window"?

Readers could find many problems which exist in The Open Window (depending upon Reader-Response). One problem which I find most evident is that of trust.

Frampton goes to stay with Mrs. Sappleton based upon a suggestion by his sister. Frampton is suffering from an undisclosed condition (nrevous) and needs to find a place where he can rest and calm his nerves. Given that letters came from his sister, he assumes that he can trust those who he contacts.

The trust which Frampton places in Vera is, most assuredly, misplaced. He sees a very young girl who he would have no problem thinking would not intentionally deceive him. Unfortunately for Frampton, this is exactly what Vera does.

Therefore, the problem in the story is that of misplaced trust.

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What is the problem and the solution in "The Open Window"?

The problem, or conflict, in "The Open Window" is the inner turmoil/conflict of Framton, a nervous, distraught man who is sent to the country for a "nerve cure."  

But, before Framton speaks with the lady with whom he is to stay, her niece enters to visit with him while the aunt is delayed.  This girl who talks with him creates a story of death and tragedy that, while unnerving enough to Framton, causes him even greater distress when the aunt, whom the girl has portrayed as insane, comes into the room and says all that the girl has predicted she would.  When Framton shudders at the woman's derangement and looks to the girl to convey sympathy and understanding, the girl, instead, is looking out the window with horror in her eyes as the people who, according to her are dead, approach the open window and come in.  The young man is singing according to the "script" of the horror tale the girl has spun.  In the resolution of the plot, poor Framton is so overcome with nervous apprehension by this horrific return of "dead" people that he flees in a "headlong retreat."  Ironically, the aunt perceives Framton as the one who is insane. 

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What is the 'tragedy' in "The Open Window"?

The "tragedy" of Saki's "The Open Window" is part of the tall-tale woven within the frame story by the imaginative Vera in order to amuse herself by manipulating the feelings of the nervous Framton Nuttel. Cleverly, Vera forms her tale from true events of the day:  Her uncle and his two brothers-in-law along the Stappleton dog have gone hunting snipe in a marshy area:

In crossing the moor to their favorite snipe-shooting ground, they were all three engulfed in a treacherous piece of bog.

The illusion of truth, symbolically suggested by the openness of the window, deceives the unsuspecting and gullible Framton. who, when the men actually return causes him such distress and humiliation that the poor man flees the Stappleton house--another moment that is part of the fabricated "tragedy" since rather than receiving much needed rest, Framton experiences more nervousness and exacerbates his already fragile condition.

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What is the 'tragedy' in "The Open Window"?

Vera is bored with country life. She is mischievous. She probably resents being confined to the house while the men can go hunting. She also probably resents being used as a substitute hostess while her aunt is putting finishing touches on her appearance in preparation to greet the visitor Framton Nuttel. Vera has a vivid imagination and probably entertains herself by making up stories. She spontaneously invents a story to see if she can make the visitor believe it. The "tragedy" she refers to is the totally fictitious death of three male relatives:

"Out through that window, three years ago to a day, her husband and her two young brothers went off for their day's shooting. They never came back. In crossing the moor to their favourite snipe-shooting ground they were all three engulfed in a treacherous piece of bog."

Vera makes Framton believe that her aunt leaves the tall French window open because she became mentally deranged by the "tragedy" and is still expecting the men to return. When the three men actually do return accompanied by their spaniel, Framton believes they are ghosts and flees from the house in terror. He is especially unnerved because the aunt cries, "Here they are at last!" and fifteen-year-old Vera, who is  described as "self-possessed" and "very self-possessed," suddenly adopts an expression of "dazed horror." (Saki probably chose the name Vera for his young heroine because it suggests truthfulness.)

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In "The Open Window" by Saki, where is the climax and how is it achieved?

The story reaches its climax when Mrs. Sappleton spots through the open window her husband and his two brothers along with their dog approaching. Her face brightens and she says, “Here they are at last! Just in time for tea, and don't they look as if they were muddy up to the eyes!”

Framton is startled and looks at Vera to convey his sympathy for her aunt. But Vera’s expression leaves him completely baffled and shocked. She “was staring out through the open window with a dazed horror in her eyes.”

Something is seriously wrong, Framton must be thinking. Immediately, he turns his face toward the window and sees the three men carrying “guns under their arms” along with a spaniel “walking across the lawn towards the window.” This is the moment when the story is at its peak.

Fear-struck and speechless, Framton bolts out of the house in no time.

A little later we are told that Vera had cooked up the whole story about the tragic death of Mr. Sappleton and his brothers.

Finding Framton gullible and seeing the window open, playful Vera invents a story. With the seriousness of her tone and persuasive gestures, she is able to convince him that her aunt had lost her mental stability since the tragic death of her husband and his brothers.

Vera tells him that Mrs. Sappleton always keeps the window open, believing that they would be home any moment.

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In "The Open Window" by Saki, where is the climax and how is it achieved?

A climax of a story is defined as the turning point of the plot and the moment of highest tension in the narrative. In Saki's short story "The Open Window," the mischievous Vera concocts an elaborate tale regarding why her aunt, Mrs. Sappleton, leaves the large French window open in order to scare the neurotic, timid Framton Nuttel. The rising action begins shortly after Framton Nuttel introduces himself to Vera, and she starts telling the unsettling tale of why the French window is open to the lawn. Vera knows that her uncle and his brothers-in-law will be arriving shortly and plans on frightening Mr. Nuttel.

After Mrs. Sappleton enters the room and listens to Framton Nuttel elaborate on his numerous ailments, she spots her husband and brothers walking toward the French window. The moment that Mrs. Sappleton announces their return is the climax of the story. At this moment, Vera's intentions come to fruition as Framton Nuttel is consumed with fear. He believes that the men walking towards the house are ghosts and turns towards Vera, who pretends to be paralyzed with fear. Framton responds by immediately dashing out the door without saying goodbye.

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What is the climax of "The Open Window," and did Saki use the techniques of suspense and foreshadowing?

In this very short, short story the climax takes up a minimal amount of space. Events move quickly to the climax. The niece tells her "[r]omance at short notice." Mrs. Sappleton comes in and listens half-attentively to Framton Nuttel drone on about his diagnosis and treatment. Then her attention is focused fully on the vague figures approaching the open window (the style of window that runs from ceiling to floor and is raised wide open to serve more as an open door than an open window). The climax occurs as Framton looks at Vera, who sits "with a dazed horror in her eyes," then is overcome with "a chill shock of nameless fear" as he looks out the open window to see figures who had, according to Vera, disappeared three years ago. The falling action begins as Framton runs in terror from the house.

In a chill shock of nameless fear Framton swung round in his seat and looked in the same direction.

     In the deepening twilight three figures were walking across the lawn towards the window, they all carried guns under their arms, and one of them was additionally burdened with a white coat hung over his shoulders. A tired brown spaniel kept close at their heels. Noiselessly they neared the house, and then a hoarse young voice chanted out of the dusk: "I said, Bertie, why do you bound?"

     Framton grabbed wildly at his stick and hat ... in his headlong retreat.

Suspense and foreshadowing are built by the same devices. Mrs. Sappleton is the key to both. Her divided attention, half listening to Framton and half searching the landscape outside the window, build suspense because we dread the reality of the niece's story coming to pass. This same attitude and divided attention serve as foreshadowing of the truth since we have a clue to what the truth might truely be and, after the resolution, we have a signpost to look back at to confirm what we discover at the end.

[Framton] was conscious that his hostess was giving him only a fragment of her attention, and her eyes were constantly straying past him to the open window and the lawn beyond. [...]
Then she suddenly brightened into alert attention - but not to what Framton was saying.

     "Here they are at last!" she cried. "Just in time for tea, and don't they look as if they were muddy up to the eyes!"

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In "The Open Window," what occurs at the window?

The importance of the open window, which is clearly signalled through Saki's choice in using it as the title of this wickedly funny short story, is based on how Vera uses it in the story that she spins for Framton. She tells him, whilst he awaits her aunt, Mrs Sappleton, that the window is kept open because of the death of her uncle and her cousin, who died in a hunting accident. However, what is tragic about the event is the way that her aunt has never been able to accept the death of her family, and that those individuals who left to go hunting through the open window are never going to return. Note what Vera tells the somewhat overwrought Framton:

Poor aunt always thinks that they will come back someday, they and the little brown spaniel that was lost with them, and walk in at that window just as they used to do. That is why the window is kept open every evening till it is quite dusk.

Vera even goes as far as to suggest that sometimes she feels that their ghosts will return, expertly setting up Framton for later events in the story when her aunt and cousin do return, as she knows they will, having not died at all and just having left to go hunting that morning. The open window is thus used by Saki as the focus and setting of the hilarious deception that Vera practises on poor Framton, who is completely taken in. Perhaps because of this the open window also stands as a symbol of the dangers of being too gullible.

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What is the initiating event in "The Open Window"?

The initiating event in "The Open Window" is the arrival of Framton Nuttel at the home of the Sappletons. He is a complete stranger who comes with a letter of introduction from his sister, a woman whom Mrs. Sappleton may not even remember. Obviously, Mrs. Sappleton is caught off guard. She has to enlist her niece Vera to stand in for her while she gets ready to receive their visitor. The entire story is told through Framton's point of view. He is not a very attractive guest because he is so wrapped up in his nervous disorder. Vera probably doesn't like being dragooned into serving as a substitute hostess at a moment's notice. She may have been interrupted in her reading. The mischievous fifteen-year-old girl decides to play a practical joke on the visitor, and in doing so Vera reveals a lot about the dreary routine of the Sappleton household. The men never think about or talk about anything but shooting birds. Her aunt seems housebound and has probably rarely heard much talk about anything but birds; consequently that seems all she ever talks about herself.

Mrs. Sappleton is devoted to her husband and her two young brothers. Vera knows her aunt will sit there staring at the open window while she talks about birds to poor, ill-at-ease Framton. Her aunt will be looking forward to the arrival of the three hunters for tea. But Vera has spun a story about how the three hunters died three years ago when they were sucked into a bog. Everything her aunt and the three hunters say and do ties in nicely with the girl's ghost story. Framton must believe that Mrs. Sappleton is mentally deranged, as Vera has told him. 

"Poor aunt always thinks that they will come back someday, they and the little brown spaniel that was lost with them, and walk in at that window just as they used to do. That is why the window is kept open every evening till it is quite dusk. Poor dear aunt, she has often told me how they went out, her husband with his white waterproof coat over his arm, and Ronnie, her youngest brother, singing 'Bertie, why do you bound?' as he always did to tease her, because she said it got on her nerves. Do you know, sometimes on still, quiet evenings like this, I almost get a creepy feeling that they will all walk in through that window - "

When Mrs. Sappleton suddenly cries, "Here they are at last!" and Vera is looking at the open window with a faked expression of "dazed horror" on her hitherto "sell-possessed" young face, Framton reacts with terror. The three returning hunters, who have only been gone for the day, look as if they must be Mr. Sappleton and his wife's young brothers returning from the dead.

In the deepening twilight three figures were walking across the lawn towards the window, they all carried guns under their arms...

And Bertie makes their identities certain when he breaks into a song that only he could know.

Noiselessly they neared the house, and then a hoarse young voice chanted out of the dusk: "I said, Bertie, why do you bound?"

Framton grabbed wildly at his stick and hat; the hall door, the gravel drive, and the front gate were dimly noted stages in his headlong retreat. A cyclist coming along the road had to run into the hedge to avoid imminent collision.

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