The Open Window Themes
by Saki

The Open Window book cover
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The Open Window Themes

The main themes in “The Open Window” are appearances versus reality, the discomfort of company, and the suspension of disbelief.

  • Appearances versus reality: Vera's stories present false appearances, concealing the reality behind them and causing great misunderstanding for Framton.
  • The discomfort of company: The interactions between Framton and the Sappleton family are uncomfortable due to the situation at hand, Framton's character, and Vera's untruths.
  • The suspension of disbelief: The story cleverly remarks on the suspension of disbelief that all fiction depends on, forcing readers to confront their own gullibility.

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Themes

Appearances Versus Reality

Saki’s “The Open Window” explores the tenuous territory between appearances and reality. In the world of the story, this divide between appearances and reality is artificial, for it is created by Vera, whose false accounts present the realities at hand in misleading ways.

During the initial conversation between Vera and Framton, Vera takes advantage of Framton’s ignorance and lack of context to tell a tall tale. It is notable that the story Vera invents hinges on a tangible feature of the environment: the open window. She then constructs the story of Mrs. Sappleton’s deceased husband and brothers by drawing on real elements. Beyond the detail of the open window, Vera also draws on the fact that the three hunters are out hunting and will presumably return soon. In light of these facts, her fiction frames their eventual return in a ghostly manner, reconfiguring that event to play upon Framton’s imagination.

It is key that Vera’s falsities depend on the absence of the people she is lying about. In her initial story about Mrs. Sappleton’s grief over her husband and brothers, it is essential that all of those characters are momentarily gone from the scene, allowing her to manipulate Framton’s imagination without any intrusions of truth. Likewise, in the case of her second story, in which she falsely details Framton’s terrible fear of dogs, it is essential that Framton has left, leaving her free to frame his sudden flight with a fresh—and believable—lie.

Although the deceptions in this story are of a light-hearted nature, they show how effectively a single person can manipulate the truth, tricking others into believing false appearances rather than the reality at hand.

The Discomfort of Company

“The Open Window” dramatizes the often uncomfortable nature of social situations, particularly encounters with strangers or new acquaintances. There are several sources of social discomfort and awkwardness in the story: Framton’s unfamiliarity with the Sappletons, Framton’s nervous and tedious nature, and Vera’s falsehoods.

The cause of Framton’s visit is a source of social awkwardness. His sister has written a letter of introduction, which Framton is meant to give to Mrs. Sappleton as a means to ease the beginning of their rapport. It is clear that this situation is somewhat uncomfortable, because Framton knows nothing about Mrs. Sappleton except that she is, according to his sister’s vague account, “quite nice.” Framton doubts the entire endeavor of meeting his new neighbors by way of introductory letters, and he mentions this method to Vera “in a tone of distinct regret.”

Another cause for social discomfort is Framton’s character. He is given to both nervousness and tediousness. At the start of the story, he reflects on his misgivings about meeting his new neighbors, expressing doubt about “whether these formal visits on a succession of total strangers would do much towards helping the nerve cure which he was supposed to be undergoing.” It is notable that while he ponders this, he is allowing a silence to grow in his conversation with Vera. Later in the story, Framton tries to introduce a topic of conversation as he speaks to Mrs. Sappleton, and he chooses to talk about the details of his nerve cure. Mrs. Sappleton finds this subject so...

(The entire section is 922 words.)