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

The Open Window

by Saki

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Describe the character Vera from "The Open Window" by H. H. Munro.

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In H. H. Munro's "The Open Window," Vera shows herself to be bright, imaginative, resourceful, poised, and a liar.

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Vera is the fifteen-year-old niece of Mrs. Sappleton. In contrast to the high-strung and anxious Framton Nuttel, Vera is described within the narrative itself as "self-possessed," and as the story unveils, she swiftly displays an imaginative and creative personality, as she fabricates the story of how her aunt's husband and brothers had perished hunting three years earlier. These details combine to have an agitating effect on Nuttel, which will become even more pronounced when the hunters actually do return. At this point, Nuttel's nerves become too much for him, and he flees the house. Vera then proceeds to invent another fabrication, as she explains away Nuttel's reaction with another imaginative tale.

At the same time, even as Vera can be called a storyteller and a liar, she can also be labeled enigmatic, given that we don't actually know what motivates her to lie in the first place. Is it created out of boredom, with Vera using these lies and stories as a way to amuse herself? Is her lying habitual? Is it actively malicious, aimed with the purpose of unsettling Nuttel? Is there some other explanation altogether? Saki does not tell us. From this perspective, much of her personality is left a mystery. We know that she lies. What we do not know is why.

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We learn quite a bit about Vera in this short story. Vera is a bright, imaginative, and self-possessed fifteen-year-old who can spin a good tale. She also defies the expectations of the adults around her—and the reader—by being an accomplished liar.

Vera uses her lying to manipulate events to amuse and benefit herself. She and her aunt, who has to repress a "yawn" when Mr. Nuttel starts talking about his medical problems, are bored with this houseguest. Vera shows a wicked resourcefulness and ingenuity when she gets Mr. Nuttel to believe a fantastic tale that causes him to flee the house. There's more than a touch of malice in Vera, too, as she manipulates and frightens a man with a nervous disorder into thinking he is seeing ghosts.

Vera reveals herself to be a poised and cool character, too, when she concocts yet another fantastic tale on the spot to explain Mr. Nuttel's sudden flight from the house.

The nature of Vera's stories, one a gothic ghost tale, the other a fantastic story set in India in which Nuttel supposedly cowers in a freshly dug grave all night while a pack of dogs hover over him, tell us something about her reading habits, which appear to veer toward sensationalistic genre literature. We can intuit that she injects versions of these stories into her real life because she enjoys the amusement and power it gives her.

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In H.H. Munro's (also known as Saki) short story of teenage mischief "The Open Window", the main character is Vera; a fifteen year old young lady who is also the niece of Mrs Stappleton. The latter is the woman whom Mr. Frampton Nuttel comes to visit as a formal guest to be able to spend some time away after having suffered a nervous breakdown.

Vera's characters is well-foreshadowed in the very beginning after he meets Mr. Nuttel. When she welcomes him in, Saki describes the following:

MY aunt will be down presently, Mr. Nuttel," said a very self-possessed young lady of fifteen; "in the meantime you must try and put up with me.

Here we see that Vera is "self-possessed" which means that she has the manners, the attitude, and the persona of someone who is well-under control of herself. This, when compared to the present state of Frampton, serves as an indicator that the two contrast greatly. However, it tells us also that, out of the two, it is Vera who has the potential of controlling the entire situation to her wishes. This is why she subtlety adds that one sentence which foreshadows her:

You must try and put up with me.

From that alone, we can sketch Vera as a cunning, mischievous (she is not necessarily a "bad" kid, just a mischievous, trying, and curious one), and as quite much wiser than we think.

During her story about the open window, which is false and calculated to scare Frampton, Vera shows a myriad of well-planned mannerisms that account for her love of mischief: She dramatizes, elaborates, embellishes, takes away truths, adds lies, and controls her story just for the sake of driving Frampton crazy. She does this for no other reason than to please herself. This helps us sketch Vera further as dramatic, creative, inventive, artistic, and of course, a bit perverse.

After witnessing the arrival of the three - MUCH alive- house men coming from hunting, Frampton has become so enthralled with Vera's story that, when he saw the supposedly dead men arriving back to the manor he blasted off in panic.

Vera does not acknowledge nor makes much of the situation. She simply explained to her aunt how curious Mr. Frampton was in coming and going this way. This seals the deal: Vera is a girl who may have become so bored with life in the country (as many other country Victorian estate young ladies did), that she has excelled at the art of storytelling. We cannot take away the hint that Saki gives us with Vera: She, her wit, her storytelling techniques, and her bit of malice reminds us of another witty, malicious storyteller: Saki, himself!

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