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

The Open Window

by Saki

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What is the climax of "The Open Window"?

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The climax in “The Open Window” is when Mrs. Sappleton’s husband and brothers return from a day of snipe shooting. Vera, Mrs. Sappleton’s niece, has concocted a tragic and spooky story to frighten Framton Nuttel, the protagonist, and so the return of the men leads Framton to panic and run off into the night without so much as a goodbye to his hostess.

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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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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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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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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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