The Open Window

The Open Window Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Supernatural (Motif)

Until readers understand Vera’s deception, the supernatural motif invades and transforms the otherwise calm Edwardian sitting room. As the men approach the house they are described in horror-inducing language; they are “three figures” (not men) that appear in the “deepening twilight” and “noiselessly” approach the house like phantasms (227). Afterward Framton bolts as though “‘he had seen a ghost’” (227). Through Vera, Saki uses the supernatural to bring some liveliness to the otherwise boring and quotidian setting.

Adult Fragility (Motif)

Adult characters are frequently satirized in Saki’s stories. In naming his adult characters in “The Open Window,” Saki highlights their fragility: The ‘Nut’ in ‘Nuttel’ implies that he is “nutty” or mentally unstable; the ‘Sap’ in ‘Sappleton’ connotes foolishness and gullibility. The only child in the story, Vera, exploits their adult fragility for her entertainment and fools both of them through her youthful imagination.

Window (Symbol)

The window is at once a symbol of the aunt’s hope that her husband and brothers will return and a symbol of Vera’s expansive imagination. Vera uses the window as a means to escape the boring, adult world and reimagine a more fantastical reality.

Man vs. Nature (Theme)

A theme in many of Saki’s stories is a battle between man and nature. A huge follower of Darwin, Saki’s stories frequently feature struggles between different species. In “The Open Window,” as in many of his other stories, nature prevails. For example, in Vera’s first fabricated story the hunters drown in a bog. In her second fabrication, several dogs chase Framton Nuttel into an empty grave.