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

The Open Window

by Saki

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What is the irony in "The Open Window"?

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In "The Open Window," there is situational irony, where Framton Nuttel is spending time in the country to cure his shattered nerves yet ends up being scared to death by Vera's ghost story. Further irony can be had in Vera's name. “Vera” means “truth,” but Vera is being anything but truthful in the tall tale she tells Framton.

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The Open Window” by Saki provides readers with an excellent example of what is called situational irony. This is where something happens that is completely the opposite of what one would normally expect. In Saki's story, the deeply neurotic Framton Nuttel is spending time in the quiet English countryside on doctor's orders as part of a rest cure for his shattered nerves.

And yet, ironically, by the end of the story, Framton's nerves are in a worse state than ever after he's scared out of his wits by a mischievous young lady named Vera, who tells him a terrifying ghost story. For Framton, the supposedly peaceful countryside has been anything but a place of rest and recuperation.

Vera's name is also ironic. The name “Vera” is often associated with veritas, the Latin word for “truth,” and yet Vera herself is anything but truthful in telling her fictitious story to Framton. And this is by no means an isolated occasion. For the narrator states that making up romances—which in this context just means fantastic fictional stories—at short notice is Vera's "specialty." This clearly indicates that Vera does this sort of thing (in other words, tells lies) on a regular basis. Readers can see, then, why her name is rather ironic, to say the least.

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Framton Nuttel is persuaded to come to the country because his sister and his doctors believe that country life is restful. This is just an assumption based on the fact that the country looks much more peaceful than the city. But Saki sems to be illustrating the fact that people are pretty much the same everywhere. Nuttel probably expects to meet a family a simple, kindly folks who are all blissfully relaxed themselves because of their long exposure to the peaceful, restful country, where the biggest event of the week is strolling to church on Sunday and strolling home again for an afternoon nap. Instead he runs into a whole bunch of zany characters, including Mrs. Sappleton whom he believes to be totally insane. Another irony in Saki's story is that the people Framton expects to be so wholesome and serene are nuttier than he is. The monotony of country living has allowed them to blossom out in their unique eccentricities. When he goes running off down the road, he may be thinking of running all the way back to London, where people are crazy in more conventional and predictable ways. We don't see much of the men, but they seem to like to do nothing but tramp around in the mud and kill birds. One of them bursts out singing, "I said, Bertie, why do you bound?" because he knows Mrs. Sappleton doesn't like it. Vera says her poor aunt is crazy and keeps waiting for the three men to return for tea every night. In fact, that is exactly what Mrs. Sappleton does do: She leaves the French window open because she is waiting for the men to come back for tea. She is crazy, but not exactly in the way Vera describes her. Vera is hardly a simple country lass, like one of those eulogized by Wordsworth. She is growing sadistic because of being confined to this lunatic asylum. She probably wouldn't mind a bit if the three hunters really were drowned in a bog. In fact she may have harbored that secret wish on more than one occasion. 

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It is logical that Mrs. Sappleton should take some time about coming down to greet Framton Nuttel. She would probably be expecting him but would not know exactly when he would arrive. When his arrival was announced to her, she is the type of woman who would want to spend some time arranging her hair, powdering her face, perhaps even changing into a different dress. So it is logical that she would send Vera to greet the visitor, both for the sake of politeness and also to give the young girl some practice in playing the hostess. It is ironic that the girl who is supposed to greet the visitor and make him feel comfortable should be the one to do exactly the opposite by telling him about three deaths and setting him up to believe he is seeing ghosts. It is also ironic that Mrs. Sappleton's concern about the guest's comfort and making him feel at home should result in frightening him half to death and making him flee in panic. It is also ironic that such a young, innocent-looking girl like Vera should be secretly so different inside. No one but the reader ever finds out the truth about why Framton Nuttel fled or what young Vera had to do with his flight.

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I believe that the main irony in the story is in the fact that Framton Nuttel has come to that part of the country for what Saki calls a "nerve cure" and he runs into a demonic girl who concocts a practical joke which scares him so badly that it will take him months to recover. This is supposed to be a stereotypical English country setting where nothing ever happens. It is probably because it is such a dull place that Vera decides to try to liven things up a little by entertaining her nervous visitor. Maybe his reaction is stronger than she anticipated?

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The irony in this story is that Nuttel has gone to the country on his sister's recommendation because she felt that he would be better off being around people.  Nuttel goes to find peace and quiet for his nervous condition and finds the exact opposite.  Instead of helping his condition, Vera with her tall tale, actually pushes Nuttel into a frenzy of fear and anxiety, making his condition far worse. 

Irony is when the outcome is in direct contrast to what is expected.

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The irony is that Vera is lying to Framton Nuttel about her aunt's "tragedy" The entire episode is make up by Vera as soon as she hears that Nuttel knows nothing about the Stappletons. Her uncle and his hunting party have really just gone out for a day and are returning the way the left that morning. However, when Nuttel sees them, he is convinced he is seeing a ghost and runs away. Vera then calmly begins another lie about Nuttel being terrified by dogs every since he spent the night in a newly dug grave in India. Saki adds at the end of the story, ''romance at short
notice," was Vera's specialty. In other words, making up stories on a moment's notice was her "talent".

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The irony in "The Open Window" is the open window itself. The open window is symbolic of honesty, yet it is used to deceive Mr. Nuttle with the story of Mrs. Sappleton's lost husband and brothers who left through the window and never returned.

The niece is playing on poor Mr. Nuttle who is "resting" due to some type of mental instability. It is further ironic in that everything Mrs. Sappleton remarks about her husband and brothers out hunting is taken differently by Mr. Nuttle. He is horrified at the glibness of her tone because he believes that they have  suffered a tragedy.

The sudden reaction and departure of Mr. Nuttle when the men return through the window is ironic, as well. The niece is able to explain his fight by saying he merely was afraid of the dog, while in reality he believes they have come from some other realm.

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What is the situational irony in "The Open Window" by Saki?

Situational irony is when something happens that is completely opposite to what the audience expects. When the neurotic Framton Nuttel arrives at the Sappletons' country home to rest his nerves, Vera meets him at the door and immediately assesses that he is a vulnerable, gullible man. Vera proceeds to tell a haunting tale about why her aunt leaves her large French window open. Vera tells Framton that three years ago, Mr. Sappleton and his two younger brothers-in-law went hunting and left through the French window. Tragically, the three men were lost in a bog that day and never returned. Ever since they disappeared, Mrs. Sappleton leaves her French window open in anticipation of their return. Suddenly, Framton sees the three men walking toward the window and panics. He works himself into a panic and ends up fleeing the Sappleton home without saying goodbye. The situational irony occurs when Framton Nuttel’s nervous condition is made worse than before he visited the Sappleton home to recuperate. Ironically, Framton’s nerves and mental stability are worse than before, and Vera is to blame.

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What is the situational irony in "The Open Window" by Saki?

The theme of this story might be stated as: There is no place on earth where you can find permanent peace, quiet, and security. The main irony is that Nuttel has come to this peaceful part of rural England looking for peace and quiet but finds himself in a household apparently haunted by ghosts with a hostess who appears to be a lunatic. This is situational irony. The facts that the three hunters are not really dead and the hostess is not really crazy are inconsequential, since Framton flees the house believing he is escaping from ghosts and his nervous condition is now much worse than before. Irony is like a bad joke. In this story the irony really is funny, so the irony is like "black humor."

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What is the situational irony in "The Open Window" by Saki?

Let us remind ourselves of the definition of situational irony. Situational irony is a specific form of irony that describes an occurrrence that is the opposite of what we expected. An example would be a rags-to-riches story, where the poor beggar suddenly inherits a fabulous fortune, or its reverse. Clearly, when thinking about this excellent story by Saki, there are a number of different kinds of irony. The situational irony though that is most important (especially to Mr. Framton Nuttel), comes when, after Vera has told Framton about the terrible tragedy of her uncle and cousins, and we, like Framton, are led to believe that her aunt is somewhat deranged with grief, these supposedly deceased members of the family walk straight in through the open window just as they would have if they were still alive. Note the response to this event:

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.

Clearly, the situational irony of the story is a great shock for Framton Nuttel, and given his delicate nervous condition, we are left thinking that Vera is rather cruel for the amusement she takes in tricking him.

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Explain the irony in "The Open Window."

Saki's short story "The Open Window" is ironic because it ends in an opposite way from what we expect. Early in the story, we think that Framton is visiting the home of an older woman who has psychological issues as a result of a great tragedy suffered a few years prior. The woman's fifteen-year-old daughter tells Framton that her father, two brothers, and pet spaniel exited through this "open window" in the house and disappeared on a hunting trip; tragically, they were apparently lost in a bog and presumed dead. Vera says her mother cannot cope with their deaths, so she leaves the window open every day, expecting them to return.

When Mrs. Sappleton finally enters the scene and makes references to the return of her husband and sons, Framton is disturbed by what he presumes is the extent of her denial. As Mrs. Sappleton looks toward the window and talks about expecting their return, Mr. Sappleton, the boys, and the dog all re-enter the house. Framton is so upset by this surprise that he immediately leaves. Vera basically leads him to believe that those family members are dead to scare him when they return. She made up the whole story.

Instead of learning that Mrs. Sappleton is mentally unstable and delusional, we learn that her daughter Vera has a gift for making up fantastical stories that sound realistic. She does the same thing when she explains to her mother why she thinks Framton left in such a hurry. She invents a story about a horrifying past experience Framton had with a dog. The story ends with the line "Romance at short notice was her specialty." Saki uses the word "romance" to mean the capacity for telling creative and imaginative stories. The story is ironic because the story's conclusion does not reveal Mrs. Sappleton's mental illness but Vera's storytelling skill. 

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What is ironic about the title "The Open Window"?

The open window looks perfectly innocent. The fact that it is standing open suggests this is a perfectly safe environment. In this peaceful country setting, the inhabitants can leave their windows open and probably don't even bother to lock their doors. Yet the precocious and mischievous Vera can weave a story around the open window that will make it seem ominous and sinister. According to the girl, it was through that window that three men went to their deaths three years ago.

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. 

The tragedy, Vera tells Nuttel, caused her poor aunt to have a mental breakdown. Her aunt now sits and waits for those male relatives to return for tea every evening. Framton Nuttel, the nervous visitor, believes the aunt must be really insane if she has been expecting her husband and two younger brothers to return for three years and still hasn't given up waiting. The fact that the window stands open seems pointless to Nuttel. The dead men can never return to life. Suddenly, everything changes. Aunt Sappleton cries out:

"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!"

Nuttel still doesn't feel threatened by the open window. He turns to look at Vera to show his sympathy, but the girl is staring at the window with a faked expression of horror. This makes Nuttel turn quickly to look where she is looking.

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.

These can only be dead men who have finally struggled out of the bog and are returning home all covered with mud and dead leaves. The open window has become a menacing thing. It is too late to try to prevent the entrance of the living dead! Nuttel flees for his life. The reader then learns the three men have only been gone for one day. It was all a practical joke. It is of course ironic that Nuttel is staying in the area for a "nerve cure." His London doctors have ordered:

"Complete rest, an absence of mental excitement, and avoidance of anything in the nature of violent physical exercise." 

The title "The Open Window" is intentionally deceptive. The tall window symbolizes the peacefulness and security of English country life.

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What is the irony used in "The Open Window"? Explain this irony with quotes from the story.

"The Open Window" is a humorous short story, and part of the humor stems from the irony at work within it. In the story, a man named Framton Nuttel is introducing himself around the neighborhood as a means of "helping the nerve cure which he was supposed to be undergoing."

In one instance, he is talking to the fifteen-year-old niece of a woman named Mrs. Sappleton while he awaits the arrival of the aunt. Normally a fifteen-year-old would be portrayed as someone impulsive and naive. However, the niece is described as "self-possessed" and speaks to Mr. Nutter in an inquisitive, almost sly way. She asks him if he knows many people in the neighborhood, clarifying that he "knows practically nothing" about her aunt. She then launches into a story about her missing uncle and other relatives, who probably drowned years ago in a bog, and her aunt's delusional behavior of keeping a window open, believing that they shall return each day. Their disappearance is a lie, but Nuttel believes the girl and is shocked when the men return, running off "without a word of goodbye or apology," believing he has seen ghosts.

The rest of her family, having no idea what caused Nutter to run off, is then treated to a story, spun by the niece, regarding a phobia that Nuttel had of dogs, due to having been "once hunted into a cemetery somewhere on the banks of the Ganges by a pack of pariah dogs," at which time he "had to spend the night in a newly dug grave with the creatures snarling and grinning and foaming just above him."

This is a major aspect of the humor and irony of the story, as this young woman, who is essentially a child, is so intelligent and insightful that she is able to quickly ascertain Nuttel's character and come up with a story to manipulate him for her own entertainment.

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In "The Open Window," what are three things that show irony in this story?

The main irony in "The Open Window" is in the fact that Framton Nuttel is a hypochondriac who has come to the country seeking complete peace, quiet, and rest, but instead he ends up in a household which appears to be haunted by ghosts carrying guns and greeted by a hostess who appears to be insane.

A second irony is in the fact that the hostess Mrs. Sappleton sends her fifteen-year-old niece downstairs to entertain Framton. At this age Vera will be getting training in becoming a housewife who will need to know all the little arts of entertaining visitors and acting as a gracious hostess herself. (It is logical that Vera should have been sent down ahead of her aunt because Mrs. Sappleton would be dressing more formally to greet the visitor, who might have arrived unexpectedl; whereas Vera is only a child and wouldn't need to make any special preparations to talk to a visitor for just a few minutes.) Vera may have been getting too much instruction in company manners and is feeling rebellious. Instead of playing the junior hostess and making polite small talk, Vera invents a story that ends up scaring poor Framton half to death. His nerves may never be the same.

It is hard to think of a third instance of irony that would be comparable in importance to the two just discussed.

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In "The Open Window," what are three things that show irony in this story?

Mister Nuttel has arrived at Mrs. Sappleton's for the purpose of rest and relaxation to calm his nervous state. From the moment he arrives the niece sees to it that he remains on edge. Her description of the "tragedy" sets the reader up for the entrance of the aunt which, of course, makes Mr. Nuttel and the reader question her sanity.

When the three men and the dog come walking through the window the surprise is too much for Mr. Nuttel and he flees the scene.

 
The final irony comes as the niece comes up with yet another falsehood about Mr. Nuttel and his fear of dogs from having to spend a night in a "newly dug grave" hiding from a pack of dogs. We see how incredibly mischievous she really is. 

 

 

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