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

The Open Window

by Saki

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What is the significance of the window in "The Open Window"?

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Vera turns the open window from what it is into something it is not. The window is, as Nuttel surmises, open simply because the weather happens to be "quite warm" for the season. It is open for the practical reason of letting in fresh air. But Vera turns the open window into a fictitious symbol of tragedy. She uses it to weave an elaborate story of her uncle and her aunt's brothers walking through it one day to hunt, only to disappear into a bog, their bodies never found again. In Vera's telling of the story, the open window becomes the visible symbol of her aunt's idea that one day the ghosts of the three men and the lost dog will reenter the room. It is, according to Vera, left open for a specific reason that has nothing to do with the weather.

The open window therefore becomes a larger symbol of the power of suggestion. Nuttel responds in terror to a very simple event—the return of three men and a dog from a hunt—because of a false idea that has been implanted into his far too trusting mind.

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The expertise of Saki as a short story writer is certainly apparent in his "The Open Window" as he employs the clever use of the window as the symbolic perimeter of the frame story that Mrs. Sappleton's niece concocts in order to exploit the nervous condition of Framton Nuttel.  This use of the window as the setting of the narrative of the niece is particularly effective because an open window suggests with its openness a certain truthfulness and candor.

Thus, by employing the window from which Mr. Sappleton and his son have departed to hunt as the frame within which she fabricates her story, the niece lends realistic detail and veracity--notice her name, Vera--to her tall-tale so much so that she has effected a blurring of the distinction between imagination and reality.  Because this condition exists, when the two men do appear and pass through the open window, the nervous Framton is horrified at what he perceives as ghosts. Clearly, the use of the open window is the all-important device for Vera's "romance at short notice."  

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