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

The Open Window

by Saki

Start Free Trial

Why does Vera deceive Mr. Nuttel in "The Open Window"?

Expert Answers

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

Saki’s short story “The Open Window” features a literary technique called dramatic irony. A writer creates dramatic irony when he/she reveals information to the reader that one or more of the characters in the story does not know. It's a good way to create suspense and make a reader think about how characters will react to the circumstances of the story. 

When Vera tells Mr. Nuttel about the missing men, the reader eventually discovers that this story is a lie. Because Mr. Nuttel does not know it is a lie, we have an instance of dramatic irony.

Why does Vera have to lie? Well, for Saki to create the intended effect (dramatic irony) the reader needs to learn something that the character does not, and the lie makes this possible.

Notice that Vera does not only tell one lie. After Mr. Nuttel runs away, she lies about the reason he left, saying that he was afraid of their dog:

"I expect it was the spaniel," said the niece calmly; "he told me he had a horror of dogs.”

This lie shifts the focus from Mr. Nuttel’s situation to Vera's behavior. Saki’s theme now becomes clearer. Instead of a central message about a man who is trying to deal with a nervous disorder, the reader is presented with a girl who deceives impulsively, and apparently just for the fun of it. The second lie forces us to confront the question: what does Vera’s deceitful behavior say about humanity?

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

In the story The Open Window, Vera (a fifteen year old girl) is waiting in her home for some relatives when she receives he visit of Mr. Frampton Nuttel, who was visiting the country side as a way to cure his nerves, and was going to spend time with them.

Vera tells him a story about tragedy and romance, drama, and suspense about her relatives that totally enthralls Mr. Nuttel. Yet, to answer your question, Vera did not have to deceive Mr. Nuttel: She simply did it because, as Saki says at the end of the story, Vera's specialty was to tell stories which were "romances at short notice."

In other words, Vera simply could not resist. She saw that the man was, in essence weaker than herself. She saw in him a potential good listener to a made up story, and since she loved telling such stories, she also saw in him a victim of her little pranks.

Hence, to answer your question Vera didn't much HAD as much as she WANTED to deceive Mr. Nuttel as a young, picaresque and creative, dramatic teenager that she is.

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

Vera doesn't have to deceive Framton Nuttel, but she does so anyway. She's a fifteen year old girl, and she still has a certain youthful exuberance and sense of fun about her. As we discover in the very last line of the story, she has a real gift for making up tall tales on the spot. In order to make such tales convincing it's essential to have someone around who's quite gullible and prone to believing just about anything. Enter Framton Nuttel. He's the perfect mark for Vera's cruel little prank; he's nervous, he's a hypochondriac, and he's totally unfamiliar with the local area. Vera can't believe her luck, and she simply cannot resist this golden opportunity to take her legendary yarn-spinning talent onto the next level. As she quickly gets the full measure of the unfortunate Mr. Nuttel, she knows that she's in for a lot of fun.

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
Approved by eNotes Editorial