Describe how the title of the story relates to the themes of the story itself.
“The Open Window” is about the capacity of storytelling, particularly short stories, to entertain through humor and trickery. The story itself is therefore an imagined world that inverts the normal power between adult and children, and casts Vera as the holder of truth and power (through her trickery) and Framton as the powerless, gullible adult. The reader looks through the ‘open window’ by reading the story and becomes a character herself, subject to the same foibles as Framton as a result of Saki’s diction and Vera’s character.
How are adults characterized in the short story?
From the muddied hunting troupe to the obsessive Mrs. Sappleton and the unstable Framton Nuttel, adults in “the Open Window” are characterized as a motley crew of dullness and daftness. This is especially true when their humdrum characters are contrasted with the quick wit and exciting world Vera creates all on her own. Even the adult character names, ‘Sappleton’ and ‘Nuttel’, emphasize a negative almost mocking view of them.
Explain how gender roles contribute to the meaning of the story.
With the exception of Framton, the characters that remain at home are all women and those that go hunting are all men. Framton’s nerves may align him more with traditional and stereotypical portrayals of women in Saki’s day. However, Saki also inverts a traditionally male-aligned role as trickster by attributing it to a young woman. Gender in “The Open Window” is thus an interesting reversal of traditional gender roles presented by Saki’s contemporaries.
What is the role of nature's influence in the story?
Nature is frequently presented as at odds with the human characters in the story. For example, the hunting party meets its supposed demise on account of poor weather conditions and a muddy bog. In Vera’s final tale, Framton is also harassed by a pack of wild dogs. Finally, Saki uses the landscape of the rural countryside as a setting for his macabre tale, showing that nature is not always peaceful and serene: it also has a darker side.
Is Vera an antagonist or a protagonist? Explain.
Though Vera plays a cruel trick on Framton, she does not perfectly fit into the role of antagonist. Conversely, though her trick is based on a morbid joke, Vera is presented as the hero of the tale. She saves the reader from another boring rendering of an adult house visit. Furthermore, she quickly disproves Framton’s doctor, who suggested a change in scenery would cure him of his anxiety.
What does the window symbolize to the various characters of the story?
To Vera, the window is a blank canvas. She uses it to create a world separate from the dull adult world she is forced to inhabit. Mrs. Sappleton views the window as the vessel that will bring back her male companion and brothers. Though she complains about all the dirt they will drag in, she also seems to wait on bated breath for the window to bring back the only company she truly cares to keep. For Framton the window symbolizes the failure of his plan to find a respite in the rural countryside, which is why he seeks to put so much distance between himself and the window at the story’s end.
How does the omniscient narrator shape the short story?
The omniscient narrator functions almost as another character. Through him, Saki provides clues to the readers, thereby suggesting that Vera is not such a trustworthy storyteller. Were the story instead told from the perspective of Framton or Vera herself, it might have been harder to dupe the reader. Moreover, the omniscient narrator in some ways is another way in which Saki inserts himself into the story, a co-conspirator of sorts, laying the path for Vera’s trickery.