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

The Open Window

by Saki

Start Free Trial

What is the significance of the title "The Open Window"?

Quick answer:

The purpose of "The Open Window" is to entertain readers with a presumed ghostly tale that doesn't end as expected. Saki uses satire and dramatic irony in combination with the ghost story genre to delight and surprise readers while at the same time commenting on the ridiculous nature of the upper classes, who, like Framton Nuttel, often possess delicate and superficial qualities.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The title "The Open Window" suggests danger of some unknown kind. It should intrigue the reader sufficiently to want to read the story. Something is going to come through that open window. Otherwise the open window would not be used as the title. The open window also suggests vulnerability from the outside. Whatever danger threatens will be coming from outdoors. The title alone does not make the reader visualize the kind of window actually featured in the story, which is a tall window like a door, designed for people to use as an entry or exit. The words "the open window" might suggest that something harmful, like a burglary or even a murder, has already occurred. It could also suggest that somebody might have committed suicide by jumping--although the reader would quickly realize that the window is on the ground floor. The whole purpose of the title seems to be to create intrigue. It would be hard to think of a better title for Saki's story.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"The Open Window" is a significant title.  The very fact that the window is open is the stimulus for the story.  The young niece asks three or four questions Mr. Nuttel.  She finds out that he doesn't know her aunt; that he has never been in that town before; and that his sister lived there four years ago. The niece is a great story teller. That allows her to fabricate the tragedy that befell her aunt three years ago.  Her uncle and his brothers will be coming home from hunting soon, and she knows that they will come through the open window.  She uses the open window as a stimulus for her story.  She tells of a time three years ago when the men went off hunting and never came home.  She says her aunt thinks they will still return, so she keeps the window open.  When the men do return, Mr. Nuttel thhinks he is seeing ghosts; whereupon the niece spins another tale about the dog  and how Mr. Nuttel had been attacked by a pack of wild dogs in a graveyard.  She had a very active imagination

Posted on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I think there are two meanings to this title of this excellent short story, the first being literal and the second being symbolic. Firstly, the open window is what Vera uses as the basis of her story to trick the susceptible Mr. Framton Nuttel. It is the open window that Vera uses to start off her chilling story, and it is the return of her uncles through that very open window that triggers Framton Nuttel's hasty departure. Of course, Mrs. Sappleton plays into Vera's hands with her reference to the open window:

"I hope you don't mind the open window," said Mrs. Sappleton briskly; "my husband and brothers will be home directly from shooting, and they always come in this way."

Yet, to consider it from another perspective, I think there is a way of reading the title symbolically. The open window can likewise refer to the way that Framton Nuttel leaves himself open or exposed to be tricked by Vera. There is something about his gullible nature that results in him being tricked very easily. Thus the title could also be seen to refer to Framton Nuttel and to act as a warning to readers, so we do not open ourselves to being tricked in the same way that he did.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the purpose of "The Open Window"?

Saki's purpose for writing "The Open Window" was to entertain readers. This is a humorous story that doesn't end as expected. When Vera engages with Framton Nuttel, she masterfully generates an eerie sense of foreboding. First, she engages him in seemingly trivial conversation, asking him how much he knows about her aunt. When she is certain that he knows "practically nothing," Vera presents a tale of horror and grief, telling Framton that her aunt leaves a window open each day in anticipation of the return of her dead husband and brothers. She includes specific details, including the song that her aunt's youngest brother always sang when he returned home. Vera tells Mr. Nuttel that her aunt is convinced that one day the dead men will return through the large open window.

Indeed, as soon as Mrs. Sappleton enters the room, she comments on the window, noting that her husband and brothers will soon return from a hunt. This adds to the sense of eerie suspense and seems to corroborate Vera's tale. The reader's anticipation grows as Mrs. Sappleton considers the mess the men will make on her carpets when they return in their dirty hunting gear.

The climax seems at first horrific as the presumed dead men return home, "muddy up to the eyes." Mr. Nuttel first looks to Vera, who has a look of "dazed horror" as she gazes toward the window. When he finds the "dead" men and their spaniel entering the house, one of them singing the song that Vera mentioned, Framton flees without a word.

The story's twist is that the characters' conversation after Framton's hasty departure indicates that Vera contrived the entire story. There were no horrible deaths on the moor, and Vera has simply toyed with Mr. Nuttel's fears. The presumed ghost story turns out to be a clever way for a young girl to deal with a tiresome man's gripes about his ailments. Vera also easily fools her aunt and uncle in telling them a tall tale about Framton's fear of dogs, which is a further implication of the upper-class characters' tendency to be gullible and superficial, readily accepting an explanation that is given to them without further concern or inquiry.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the purpose of "The Open Window"?

The purpose of "The Open Window" is to show that people can be deliberately malicious and cruel, especially to people who reveal their vulnerabilities. We know that the main character, Mr. Nuttel, has shared his nerve disorder with his hosts. In fact, his hostess, Mrs. Sappleton, says he "could only talk about his illnesses."

The fifteen-year-old Vera, Mrs. Sappleton's niece, also finds out that Mr. Nuttel barely knows her aunt. She takes advantage of this information to deliberately frighten Mr. Nuttel with a false story. Vera lies and says that her aunt's husband and two children disappeared one day while hunting. She explains that Mrs. Sappleton keeps the window (what we would call a French door) open in the deluded hopes they will walk back through it one day. Of course, they are quite alive. When they come in, Mr. Nuttel runs off, thinking he's seen ghosts.

The story implies that Mr. Nuttel is a bore about his illnesses and that Vera is getting revenge. It warns that people like Vera, despite polite manners, are not all sweetness and light. They are capable of manipulation and amusing themselves through cruelty. We all have an aggressive streak, which can come out passive-aggressively in how we treat people. The message of the story is not to assume that people have your best interests at heart.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is the purpose of "The Open Window"?

When determining author's purpose, think about the acronym P.I.E., which stands for "persuade, inform, entertain." A story's purpose can usually be understood from these three points. The purpose behind Saki's short story "The Open Window" is to entertain. Vera, a young and mischievous girl, sets up an unassuming and sickly man, named Nuttel, for a practical joke. She tells him a story of a family tragedy only to pull off an ironic twist that frightens the man out of his wits. Not only is Vera a great storyteller, but she is also a great actress. She doesn't just tell the "facts" about the family tragedy that supposedly cost the lives of her aunt's husband and brothers, but she dramatically displays sorrow, and then believable horror, when the men return from hunting. When Nuttel runs from the home without a word to the hostess, the joke is successfully executed, and the intended entertainment is accomplished.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on