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

The Open Window

by Saki

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Plot points and motifs in "The Open Window" by Saki


"The Open Window" by Saki revolves around a young girl, Vera, who deceives a nervous visitor, Mr. Nuttel, with a fabricated tale about her aunt's supposedly missing husband and brothers. Key motifs include deception, irony, and the contrast between reality and illusion. The story highlights themes of human gullibility and the power of storytelling.

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What are the six plot points of "The Open Window" by Saki?

Plot structures can be analyzed in more than one way. One way is through six plot points that include complication, conflict and denouement. This is a common method used in narratological analysis of texts. The six plot points are:

  1. Exposition
  2. Complication
  3. Conflict
  4. Climax
  5. Denouement
  6. Resolution

In the exposition, the characters, relationships, situation and setting are introduced and established. This is an important section of the plot because it establishes the premise for all that follows; it sets up the whos and whys and where and when.

The second plot point is the complication. This is the what. The complication is the events or circumstances or characters that pose the germ of the problem to be faced or dealt with by the protagonist.

The third plot point is the conflict. This is the actual problem that develops out of the complication(s). This is the problem that arises between the protagonist and the antagonist. Sometimes, of course, the "antagonist" is the inner being of the protagonist if the conflict is an internal Self against Self conflict, such as when the protagonist is faced with an ethical or moral decision.

The fourth plot is the climax. This is when the events surrounding the conflict turn (at the turning point) so that the outcome is inevitable, for example, if the protagonist decides to battle the antagonist in the climax, what comes--a battle--is inevitable.

The fifth plot point is the denouement. This is what happens as a result of the climax. The decision or the action the protagonist takes in the climax leads to the occurrences of the denouement.

The sixth plot point is the resolution. This is how the conflict does or does not get completely resolved: it is completely resolved or it is continuing.

Now, to apply these plot points to "The Open Window." First find the exposition: setting, characters, relationships and situation. I'll get you started with the characters and relationships, then you can proceed:

  • Framton Nuttel and his sister
  • Vera and her aunt, Mrs. Stappleton

Now find the complication, the seed of the problem that will arise. The complication here is that Framton is emotionally and mentally exhausted and needs a complete mental rest cure: mental rest is the key phrase in the complication.

Now identify the conflict. The conflict develops from the complication. It helps to identify the antagonist to the protagonist. In this case, with Framton the protagonist, the antagonist is Vera, the niece. What does she do related to Framton's need for complete mental rest? The answer to this leads to the conflict: She tells him a horrific story and suggests it will come to an end in a deathly manner before his very eyes, thus destroying his mental rest cure (and his sanity?).

Now identify the climax--the moment when the inevitable is decided--the denouement (the results of the climax) and the resolution. Be sure to identify if the resolution is complete or if the conflict continues after the story ends: complete or continuing resolution. I'll help a little on a some of this. The denouement, the result of the climax, is when Framton runs away. The conflict does not completely resolve; it is only run away from. Since we still fear what will become of Framton, it is continuing. Now, you can identify the climax that falls between the conflict and the denouement.

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What are the motifs in "The Open Window" by Saki?

There are a number of motifs in "The Open Window." It is the repetition of the motifs that adds to the suspense and creates the effect of what is seen through the open window. A motif is a noticeable recurring device such as a word, image, or verbal formula that catches your attention and helps build an element of the story, such as mood or suspense. The major motif is the open window of the title. This focuses reader expectation on this object, thus forming the foundation of suspense.

"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.

The group of motifs that is next in in importance are those surrounding the tree dead, lost hunters. These motifs tell the reader what to look for and what Framton will be horrified to look for and see: e.g., the three men, the little brown spaniel, the waterproof white coat, the guns under arms, and the words "Bertie, why do you bound?" Another most important motif is the verbal formula that is used for Vera: she is styled as "the self-possessed young lady." This description of her adds to the irony and helps to build the surprise ending and the equally surprising resolution.

Other motifs, like letter of introduction, shooting, nerve cure, and some people help to develop characters in very little space and to build a backstory and sense of setting.

"[H]is 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, .... I shall just give you letters of introduction ...."

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What are the motifs in "The Open Window" by Saki?

While there is more than one theme for this ironically amusing story, the theme of Deception has several parts to it:

1."Do you know many of the people round here?" Sent to talk with the guest while her aunt does something before descending to the sitting room, Vera asks Mr. Nuttel if he knows the people who live around her. Now, while Mr. Nuttel probably thinks she is merely making conversation while she waits for her aunt to appear; however, she determines by his answer what she can tell him. She discovers that he knows no one and knows only Mrs. Stappleton's name and address. This lack of familiarity with the area allows Vera to create her tall tale.

2. The open window. The fact that a French door, which also acts as a window is open creates a sense of honesty and openness that deceives Framton Nuttel into thinking that Vera tells him a true tale.

3. Vera's name. Vera's name is a derivative from the Latin word for "truth." In English there is the word veracity, for example. Vera's name credits her with telling the truth.

4.Vera's tall-tale.  Vera fashions a tall-tale based on the truth. The men of the Stappleton family have gone hunting with the dog. However, they departed the day Framton Nuttel talks to Vera, who fabricates a story about their having gone out three years ago and never returned because they were "engulfed in a treacherous piece of bog."

5. Mrs. Stappleton as being mentally maladjusted. Vera has told Framton,

"Poor aunt always thinks that they will come back some day, they and the little brown spaniel that ws lost with them, and walk in at that window just as they used to do....I almost get a creepy feeling that they will walk in throught that window...

6. With a name suggestive of stability, Mrs. Stappleton, who is unaware of Vera's fabricated story, tells Nuttel that her family is soon due to return. He feels sorry for her, of course, having heard of her affliction. But, when the men and the dog enter, Framton thinks he sees ghosts, and, terrified, he flees.

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