“‘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.’”
This is the story’s first sentence. From it, the reader gleans Framton’s name but not Vera’s—Saki introduces her only as “a self-possessed young lady.” By emphasizing her manners and her young age (as well as her gender), Saki encourages the reader to view Vera as credible and innocent.
“Privately he doubted more than ever whether these formal visits on a succession of total strangers would do much towards helping the nerve cure with which he was supposed to be undergoing.”
After arriving in the living room of a relative stranger, Framton regrets agreeing to his sister’s attempts to keep him from loneliness. The sentence indicates to the reader that this is not Framton’s first visit to a relative stranger—nor, in all likelihood, will it be his last. Framton’s doubt about the value of these visits echoes Saki’s mockery of the traditions of Edwardian and adult society.
“‘Then you know practically nothing about my aunt?’ pursued the self-possessed young lady.”
Where Framton feels regret for visiting relative strangers, Vera sees the visitor’s unfamiliarity with her family as an opportunity. From this moment, Framton becomes a tool for Vera’s entertainment. His unawareness and nervous demeanor make him a perfect target for her trickery. This closely relates to motif of adult fragility.
“Their bodies were never recovered. That was the dreadful part of it.”
As Vera describes the “great tragedy” that befell her “late” uncle, she recounts this particularly eerie line. The tragic death of the men already seemed out of place in the rural setting; however, the detail about their still missing bodies elevates the tragic tale to something of a ghost story. This is closely related to the supernatural motif in the story.
“Here the child’s voice lost its self-possessed note and became falteringly human.”
Again, Saki refers to Vera as a “child,” emphasizing to readers her supposed trustworthiness and goodness. When her voice becomes “falteringly human,” readers may suspect that her story is not entirely true. However, the shift might instead make the tale more believable, showing that Vera cannot help but be overcome by the deeply unfortunate truth about her family.
“I hope Vera has been amusing you?”
This is the only time Saki mentions Vera’s name in the story. Mrs. Sappleton finally enters to greet her guest and asks whether her niece has amused him. This quote includes one of very few clues that Vera may not be the credible character readers imagine her to be.
“I hope you don’t mind the open window…my husband and brothers will be home directly from shooting, and they always come in this way.”
After Vera finishes the story about the “great tragedy,” Mrs. Sappleton enters and almost immediately begins discussing her husband and brothers. For Framton and readers, this is the first indication that Mrs. Sappleton may actually be suffering deep delusions from her loss. This quote relates very closely to the chaos-versus-order theme by bringing the tragic tale Vera described into the sitting room itself, completely disrupting what was meant to be a calming visit
“In the deepening twilight three figures were walking across the lawn towards the window; they all carried guns under their arms, and one of them was additionally burdened with a white coat hung over his shoulders.”
The description of the party returning from their hunt recalls the supernatural motif that appears throughout the story. Not yet sure whether Framton is seeing ghosts, readers receive no clues from this description. Saki’s word choice conveys a sense of gloom and horror and thus resists confirming whether Framton is seeing ghosts or living people. The men are not described as such but rather are presented as “figures” in “deepening twilight,” leaving readers wondering whether Mrs. Sappleton really is as delusional as Framton thinks.
“He was once hunted into a cemetery somewhere on the banks of the Ganges by a pack of pariah dogs, and had to spend the night in a newly dug grave with the creatures snarling and grinning and foaming just above him. Enough to make anyone lose their nerve.”
Explaining why Framton took off in such a hurry, Vera spins a fantastically false tale about his supposed fear of dogs. In this moment, readers suddenly realize that the entire “tragic tale” was false and that Vera, despite her name, habitually deceives her audience. Framton was not the only one fooled: this is also the moment when many readers realize they’ve been deceived as well. Saki presented a credible, young, and seemingly innocent child only to reveal her as a deceptive trickster at the story’s end.
“Romance at short notice was her specialty.”
This is the last sentence of the story. If it is not yet clear to readers that Vera isn’t quite the credible character she seems to be, this sentence makes it clear that she is quite the trickster. Vera, like Saki, specializes in using stories to trick, entertain, and reimagine reality.
The Open Window Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Open Window is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
"You may wonder why we keep that window wide open on an October afternoon," said the niece, indicating a large French window that opened on to a lawn. "It is quite warm for the time of the year," said...