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

The Open Window

by Saki

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Mood and suspense in "The Open Window" by Saki

Summary:

"The Open Window" by Saki creates a mood of eerie suspense through the use of Vera's fabricated story about the disappearance of her uncles and the open window symbolizing their return. The tension builds as Mr. Nuttel becomes increasingly anxious, culminating in a twist ending that reveals Vera's deception and leaves readers with a sense of surprise and irony.

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What is the mood in "The Open Window" by Saki?

"The Open Window" is told from a third-person narrative perspective, and the narrative voice has a gentle, humorous, witty tone to it. For example, when the main character, Framton, tells his hosts about his illness, Saki writes:

Framton . . . 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.

The tone of phrases like "laboured under the tolerably widespread delusion" seems to be sarcastically condescending but in a gentle, playful way. The tone is very reminiscent of P. G. Wodehouse, a well-loved English humorist, who wrote sentences like, "He had the look of one who had drunk the cup of life and found a dead beetle in the bottom," and "He had just enough intelligence to open his mouth when he wanted to eat, but certainly no more."

In Saki's short story, the humorous tone is also evident at the end of the story. After we discover that the tale the niece told Framton, which made him flee in terror from the house, was entirely made up, Saki writes, "Romance was her speciality." The tone here is one of dry, comic understatement.

There is also in the story a rather suspenseful, macabre tone while we, along with Framton, believe the niece's tale about the three men who died in the marsh, supposedly three years ago to the day of this story. Introducing the tale, the niece declares that, "Her [Mrs. Sappleton's] great tragedy happened just three years ago." She then points to an open window and says to Framton, "You may wonder why we keep that window wide open on an October afternoon," before explaining that the poor Mrs. Sappleton labors under the impression that one day the three dead men will come home, through that open window. Framton later notices that Mrs. Sappleton's "eyes were constantly straying past him to the open window and the lawn beyond," and finally, towards the end of the story, the three men and their dog emerge from the twilight, carrying their guns and walking slowly towards the open window. This "ghastly" tale creates a suspenseful tone, which, however, is soon undercut by the revelation that it was all a fanciful, somewhat cruel trick designed merely to frighten the restless Framton.

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What is the mood in "The Open Window" by Saki?

The mood of "The Open Window" begins in a ordinary manner. It is merely an introduction from Framton Nuttel to Mrs. Sappleton. As the story progresses, the mood becomes suspenseful. As the niece tells her tall tale, the reader is as intrigued and is Framton Nuttel. When Mrs. Sappleton claims to see her husband and her brothers walking toward the house, the reader has sympathy for poor Mrs. Sappleton. Then when the neice and Framton see the same images, the reader is anxious, thinking that Mr. Sappleton and the other two men are ghosts, apparitions.

When Framton makes his quick exit, the reader begins to realize that the niece has told a tall tale. As the tone becomes humorous, the reader is relieved to know that the niece has told a terrific tale that frightend both Framton and the reader.

At the ending of the story, the reader is so relieved until he or she cannot become angry with the niece for her practical joke. The ironic ending leaves the reader filled with, first, apprehension and anxiety. Then the mood becomes one of humor and relief.

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What is the mood in "The Open Window" by Saki?

The overall tone is playful and humorous. It is clear quite early on that the author does not have much regard for poor old Framton Nuttal. Saki's point of view is reflected in the character of Vera. She is a very bright, perceptive, young lady, and she is rather mischievous. When she meets Framton, all nervous and fidgety, she immediately senses an irresistible opportunity for a good old-fashioned leg-pull. Somehow, she manages to keep up the pretense of her ghost story, even affecting a look of pure horror as the three men approach the house in the enveloping twilight. It would seem that she is something of an expert at this. We are vindicated in this assessment by the elaborate story she concocts on the spot regarding the recently vanished Framton:

He was once hunted into a cemetery somewhere on the banks of the Ganges by a pack of pariah dogs, and had to spend the night in a newly dug grave with the creatures snarling and grinning and foaming just above him. Enough to make anyone lose their nerve.

If Vera represents Saki, then we are placed in the same invidious position as the hapless Framton Nuttal. Vera appears to engage in seemingly banal pleasantries with Framton, but in reality, she is carefully feeling him out, trying to see whether or not he is likely to fall for her joke. As readers, we are also suckered into playing along with Vera's little parlor game, fooled as we are by her demure gentility.

Romance at short notice was her speciality.

Yes, and much the same could be said for the author of "The Open Window." We may not suddenly run away like poor old Framton Nuttal, but, like him, we have been well and truly duped by the mischievous Vera.

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What is the mood in "The Open Window" by Saki?

The TONE of a literary work entails the attitude with which the story is being narrated. It is an attitude that shows the underlying feeling toward the subject, a character, or a situation. 

In "The Open Window," there is a consistent, underlying tone of mockery that stems from the characterization of Framton Nuttel.  His narrative is rife with mentions of a nervous condition that is unique in that it is aggravating, even to his own sister. 

..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..

There is no compassion toward Framton despite of his condition, which makes the reader wonder if Roald Dahl is being cruel, or humorous. Given that his style is one to never pass on a chance to be sarcastic, ironic, or dark in humor, we should read the commentary on Framton, and his situation, as a comical one where a young woman takes full advantage of a much older- and much weaker- man. 

From that point, the other tones come from the nested tale of the supposed trip that left three men and a dog nowhere to be found. For this story, Vera adopts a dark, thrilling, and frightening tone that aims to scare Framton, thus making his condition even worse.

Framton's own tone is nervous, inconsistent and frazzled. At no time does he change his tendency to make himself vulnerable, and this leaves the reader almost chuckling in the end, when Framton finally loses it and takes off running out of the house. 

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How is suspense created in "The Open Window" by Saki?

Saki effectively uses elements creating suspense in the short story, "The Open Window." The reader learns within the first few lines that the protagonist of the story, Framton Nuttel, has fragile nerves for which he is seeking a cure. This information provides the reader with a sense of concern regarding Framton. In addition, Vera, the antagonist, is twice referred to as "self-possessed." A tone of suspense is set by providing the reader with this information early in the story. There is some apprehension at the meeting of these two characters.

When Vera discovers that Framton has never met her aunt, the reader sees a change in Vera's description. The author then refers to her as a "child." Suspense is again created around this sudden change in Vera's manner as she goes from being "self-possessed" to being a "child." Vera goes on to tell the story of her aunt's "great tragedy" that took place "three years ago to a day." Again, the reader is persuaded to become concerned with poor Framton's bad luck to arrive exactly three years after Mrs. Sappleton's "great tragedy."

Another element creating suspense is the repeated mention of the window. Vera says, "You may wonder why we keep that window wide open on an October afternoon." She then explains that her aunt's husband and brothers left through the window and never returned. The window is mentioned again when Vera shares that her aunt keeps the window open as if she expects their return. When Mrs. Sappleton finally appears, she mentions the window by saying, "I hope you don't mind the open window." Finally, as she talks with Framton, Mrs. Sappleton continues to glance at the open window. The reader's attention is continually pulled back to the window. As a result, suspense is created regarding what will happen with the window. The suspense reaches a climax when Mrs. Sappleton announces the return of her husband and brothers, and Framton turns to see the figures approaching the window.

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How is suspense created in "The Open Window" by Saki?

There are a number of techniques authors use for creating suspense, some are vocabulary, dialogue, setting, mood and tone. The main mechanism for building suspense in "The Open Window" is through a structural technique. Saki juxtaposes Framton's need for complete mental rest and the horrible story, with its grizzly expectation, Vera is telling to him. The reader knows Framton's need for mental rest and tranquility and feels the building, mentally unsettling, horror of the story of the three beloved men--and spaniel--being lost in a quagmire of the bog. The possibility that is raised that the men and spaniel might come back through the ceiling-to-floor French window continues the suspense once it is begun.

Another structural technique in the characterization of Vera adds further to the suspense. The fact that she asks questions about Framton's knowledge of the area and of her aunt in particular lends a suspenseful chill to the story as it progresses. In addition, her seemingly offhand remark about the open window in October, right after mentioning the "tragedy," adds to the suspense because it makes readers alert to the titular theme (the theme represented by the title): "The Open Window."

"You may wonder why we keep that window wide open on an October afternoon," said the niece, indicating a large French window that opened on to a lawn.

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How does the author create suspense in "The Open Window"?

The author creates suspense by using a narrative style that is unique and characters who are believable. The narrative structure is that of frame story. Usually, in a frame story we have one narrator and it is impossible to check to see if that narrator is truthful. Here, Vera seems to be truthful when she tells Nuttel the story of Mr.Sappleton and the hunting party but as the story progresses, the reader sees her for what she is: a liar who is either bored or malicious or both. The irony is that poor Framden Nuttel never stays around long enough to see the joke that has been played on him but the reader is let in on the joke. Suspense is also created because Vera and Nuttel are both believable characters and, at first,the story she tells is a suspenseful one itself. It is only at the end, when she begins another story to explain Nuttel's quick departure, that we fully understand her character. But the readers are the only ones let in on the joke. Nuttel and Mrs. Sappleton still think Vera is a good, normal young lady. This leaves us wondering what she will be up to next.

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How does the author create suspense in "The Open Window"?

Although Saki never intended the readers of this story to take his yarn seriously, he maintains interest through vivid character portrayal and anticipation of events. One can see Vera setting the trap for Mr Nuttel (aleady 'a nut case') and his falling directly into it. This is more slapstick comedy than mystery intrigue, but the story is a delight to read just the same. One can't help but admire naughty Vera, who can think on her feet and keep a dead calm when the pressure's on.

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How is suspense built around "The Open Window"?

The open window as the frame for her fabricated story lends a false sense of truth as openness is usually suggestive of veracity.  By this initial deception, Vera establishes suspension of disbelief on the part of Mr. Nuttel.  Her use of words such as tragedy in a "restful country spot [where]tragedies seemed out of place" creates immediate suspense.  Then, Vera points to the window and suggests its connection to the "tragedy."  Her breaking voice that becomes "falteringly human" as she says that the bodies were never recovered certainly adds to the suspense, as well.

Certainly, there is also some suspense when, after Vera has told Mr. Nuttel that the aunt refuses to believe that the men of her family are gone, and the aunt appears, Nuttel wonders what this woman will say about the open window before them.

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How is suspense built around "The Open Window"?

After Vera ascertains that Mr. Nuttel knows nothing about her family, she makes the open window the center of the conversation. The fact that the hunters are lost out on the moors add mystery to the story. At first, the open window symbolizes the grief felt by Vera's aunt at the loss of her husband and sons. When her aunt comes into the room, she again brings attention to the open window, waiting for her husband and sons to return. Vera's aunt seems to authenticate Vera's story, and this adds more suspense to the story, especially when we hear the father and sons returning from their hunt.

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