Saki disrupts the otherwise placid house visit with such strange occurrences as a supposed ghost siting and a tragic death. The open window is the vessel through which this chaos enters the orderly sitting-room scene. The particular type of chaos Saki utilizes in this story is closely related to his fascination with the wild: it involves wild dogs, dangerous terrain, and a forest. Saki commonly uses chaos to mock the customs of English society, preferring the chaotic to the boring order of adult life.
Empowerment (at expense of adults)
Closely related to Saki’s preference of chaos over order is his frequent positioning of children as foils for frail adult characters. Vera, the child in this story, repeatedly bests the adult characters with the power of her imagination. She finds a particularly good target in Framton, whose nerves make him a natural audience for her trickery.
Desire to Escape
Both Framton and Vera possess a strong desire to escape. Vera seeks escape from the adult world she inhabits through her imagination and storytelling. Framton is brought to the rural town out of a desire to escape and recover from his nerve disorder. While Vera’s escape proves fruitful and entertaining, Framton’s is not so successful: it provokes more chaos than calm.
Power of Storytelling
Saki commonly uses the ‘story within a story’ technique in his works. He takes this a step further in “The Open Window” by using Vera as storyteller to convey a theme about storytelling as an art form. Saki and Vera both rely on the short story to fool their audience. As one who relied mainly on the short story to capture his ideas, Saki includes storytelling in this work to communicate its unique compatibility with the comedic tale.
This theme is closely related to the chaos vs. order theme. Several characters allude to the supposed peacefulness of the rural setting: Framton’s doctors suggest it as a retreat to calm his nerves and Framton himself is surprised to find that tragedy would ever occur in the rural landscape. Ironically, the setting becomes another source of anxiety for Framton with the addition of Vera’s storytelling.
Satirization of Edwardian Society
Saki is well known for his satirical illustrations of Edwardian English society. “The Open Window” is yet another example of these satirical writings. Mockingly, Saki exposes the absurdity of the house visit during conversations between Framton and Mrs. Sappleton. Both find the encounter “purely horrible” and Mrs. Sappleton can barely contain a yawn as her guest discusses his medical idiosyncrasies (226).
Comedy plays a significant role in “The Open Window.” Vera’s stories, although perhaps initially credible, are revealed at the end to be fantastical and comedic fantasies of a child’s making. Thus comedy is posited as a refreshing contrast to the dull and adult setting and lifestyle.
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.
Mr. Nuttel is shocked and panics when he sees the men. The reader understands that Vera's story is fiction but Mr. Nuttel takes it to heart. The comedy comes from Mr. Nuttel's overreaction to the men returning.