The Open Window
"The Open Window'' is Saki's most popular short story. It was first collected in Beasts and Super-Beasts in 1914. Saki's wit is at the height of its power in this story of a spontaneous practical joke played upon a visiting stranger. The practical joke recurs in many of Saki's stories, but "The Open Window'' is perhaps his most successful and best known example of the type. Saki dramatizes here the conflict between reality and imagination, demonstrating how difficult it can be to distinguish between them. Not only does the unfortunate Mr. Nuttel fall victim to the story's joke, but so does the reader. The reader is at first inclined to laugh at Nuttel for being so gullible. However, the reader, too, has been taken in by Saki's story and must come to the realization that he or she is also inclined to believe a well-told and interesting tale.
Though it is a remarkably short piece of fiction, ''The Open Window'' explores a number of important themes. Mr. Nuttel comes to the country in an attempt to cure his nervous condition. He pays a visit to the home of Mrs. Sappleton in order to introduce himself, and before he gets to meet the matron of the house, he is intercepted by her niece, who regales him with an artful piece of fiction that, in the end, only makes his nervous condition worse.
Appearances and Reality
Not until the end of the story does the reader realize that Vera has tricked Mr. Nuttel. This is revealed with the last line of the story: "Romance at short notice was her [Vera's] specialty."
Saki's Wit and Skillful Social Satire
Hugh Hector Munro, who wrote under the pseudonym Saki, is well known not only as a master of the short story form, but also for the irony with which his stories are imbued. "The Open Window," Saki's most frequently anthologized story, is an excellent example of Saki's use of irony. The events of the story itself are ironic in their own right. However, Saki increases the ironic amplitude of the story by making the reader a victim of the very same hoax that Vera perpetrates on Mr. Nuttel.
Crucial to the success of this effect is the story's narrative structure. Saki employs a frame ...
The Open Window Summary
Framton Nuttel has presented himself at the Sappleton house to pay a visit. He is in the country undergoing a rest cure for his nerves and is calling on Mrs. Sappleton at the request of his sister. Though she does not know Mrs. Sappleton well, she worries that her brother will suffer if he keeps himself in total seclusion, as he is likely to do.
Fifteen-year-old Vera keeps Nuttel company while they wait for her aunt. After a short silence, Vera asks if Nuttel knows many people in the area. Nuttel replies in the negative, admitting that of Mrs. Sappleton he only knows her name and address. Vera then informs him that her aunt's "great tragedy" happened after his sister was acquainted with her. Vera indicates the large window that opened on to the lawn.
Exactly three years ago, Vera recounts, Mrs. Sappleton's husband and two younger brothers walked through the window to go on a day's hunt. They never came back ...
"My aunt will come soon, Mr. Nuttel," said a very self-sure young lady of fifteen. "Do you know many people here?" asked the niece. "Hardly anybody," said Mr. Nuttel. "My sister was staying here some four years ago, and she recommended me to come here to have a rest." "Then you know nothing about my aunt? " continued the girl. "Only her name and address," answered Mr. Nuttel. "Her great tragedy happened just 3 years ago," said die child. "Her tragedy?" asked Mr. Nuttel. "You may wonder why we keep that window wide open on an October afternoon," said the niece. "Out through that window three years ago my aunt's husband and her two young brothers went hunting. They never came back. They drowned in the marsh. Poor aunt always thinks that they will come back some day, they and the little brown spaniel that was lost with them, too."
It was a relief for Mr. Nuttel when the aunt hurried into the room with many apologies for being late. "I hope you don't mind the open window," the aunt said, "my husband and brothers will soon come back from hunting and they always come through this window."
She talked cheerfully about hunting, to Mr. Nuttel it was all horrible. He announced that doctors advised him a complete rest in a quiet country place and that he should avoid any excitement.
"Here they are at last," cried the aunt. Mr. Nuttel shivered slightly and looked through the window. Three figures were walking across the lawn, they all carried guns, a tired brown spaniel followed them. Mr. Nuttel took his stick and hat and rushed out quickly.
"Here we are, my dear," said the aunt's husband. "Who was that man who rushed out as we came up?"
"A most strange man," said the aunt. "He could speak only about his illness, and that he came to have a rest here, and ran away without saying good-bye, as if he had seen a ghost."
"I think it was the spaniel," said the niece calmly, "he told me he had a horror of dogs. Once in India he was hunted by wild dogs and he had to spend a night in a newly dug grave."
Her hobby was making up tales.
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