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The Open Window Summary

Summary and Analysis of The Open Window by Saki

One of Saki’s best-known works, “The Open Window” describes an encounter of Framton Nuttel, with the fifteen-year-old niece of Mrs. Sappleton, Nuttel’s hostess for the duration of his temporary rural retreat. The story is narrated by an omniscient, third-person narrator. The story was originally published in 1911.

British author Hector Hugh Munro, better known by his pen name, Saki, is one of the greatest writers of short stories in Britain, often compared to the likes of O. Henry

The Open Window | Summary

The story begins in medias res with Mrs. Sappleton’s niece, Vera, who is “a very self-possessed young lady of fifteen”, who explains to Framton that her aunt would meet him shortly. As Framton waits for Mrs. Sappleton, he is unable to carry on a conversation with the young girl, being naturally shy and introverted. He doubts if living with total strangers will cure his nerve symptoms, but his sister had insisted on introducing him to the people that she knew in the village. Vera asks him if he knows anything about her aunt, and Frampton replies that all he knows about her is her name and address. He tries to figure out if Mrs. Sappleton is married or widowed, and by observing the room, he finds subtle signs of masculine habitation.

Vera suddenly mentions the ‘great tragedy’ that befell her aunt three years ago, to attract his curiosity. It works, and Framton curiously enquires about the tragedy. She draws his attention to the large French window in the room, asking if he wondered why the window is open in a late October afternoon. He asks if it is somehow connected to the tragedy. She explains that three years ago, her aunt’s husband and two brothers had gone shooting along with their dog, a little brown spaniel. In that “dreadfully wet summer”, they drowned in an inobtrusive piece of bog, and none of their bodies could be recovered.

Not being able to deal with the tragic demise of her husband and brothers, her aunt still hopes for their return, keeping the window open every day in the hope that they will return, as she still narrates the story of their departure that day, her husband with a white coat over his shoulders, her youngest brother singing “Bertie, why do you bound?” to deliberately annoy his sister.

At this point, Mrs. Sappleton herself comes down to greet her guest, hoping that Vera had kept him amused in the meantime. She hopes that Framton will excuse the open window, as her husband and brothers will return from their snipe hunt in the marshes. Thinking that she is delusional, Framton attempts to change the subject by narrating the details of his sickness. Suddenly, Mrs. Sappleton cries, “Here they are at last!”, and Framton looks at her niece to nod in sympathetic comprehension. However, seeing Vera looking out the window with “dazed horror in her eyes”, he looks up at the window and sees three figures walking towards the window in the deepening twilight, armed with guns and a white coat flung over one of their shoulders, a tired brown spaniel at their heels.

Thinking that he is seeing ghosts, Framton flees the spot terrified. As Mr. Sappleton and his brothers-in-law enter the house, they ask who it was who bolted out the door. A surprised Mrs. Sappleton is herself puzzled, unable to comprehend Framton’s sudden, unexplained departure. Her niece, Vera, however, explains that it must have been because of his fear of dogs, as he was telling her that he was once chased by a pack of pariah dogs in India, being forced to spend the night inside a dug grave which the dogs snarling and drooling over him.

The last line explains that Romance at short notice was her speciality.”


The Open Window | Analysis

The humorous and ironic short-story explores the outstanding creativity of a fifteen-year-old girl who is able to come up with thrilling, fictitious explanations behind real events in a matter of seconds, fooling all adults around her. While ethically, Vera’s actions constitute as lying, Saki is not condemning the little girl’s habit, but taking an indulgent, paternalistic attitude to her marvellous ability and creative genius. Even her acting skills are so convincing that she changes her voice tone and expression according to the demands of the situation, her body language shifting from her natural sense of self-possession, to an expression of ‘dazed horror’ at will, making Framton Nuttel completely forget about his own observations of the rectory that would have helped him uncover Vera’s prank.

Naturally shy and timid, Nuttel completely forgets that he had seen signs of ‘masculine habitation’ in the house, or that there is a perfectly rational explanation for keeping the window open in an exceptionally hot October. Instead of reacting in a rational manner and enquiring about Mr. Sappleton from her wife instead of relying solely on the words of a child, he is so convinced by Vera’s story that he runs away in horror the moment he sees the men return, not even providing an explanation to his hostess, or waiting for one from her side. The comicality of the situation is strikingly in contrast to the horrifying quality of Vera’s stories, and the audience, aware of the reality, is able to enjoy the irony and humour of the story.

The last line “Romance at short notice was her speciality”, is an exceptional use of a plot twist by Saki, successfully explaining the entire story in one brief line.





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