The Open Window



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The Open Window Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Saki's The Open Window. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Saki

Saki was a British author known for his sardonic wit and frequent satire of social pretension. Born to an Inspector General of the Burma police in 1870, Saki lived in Asia until his mother’s death in 1872. The two-year-old Saki and his siblings were then sent to live in England with their strict grandmother and aunts—figures who, many scholars assert, later served as inspiration for various authority figures in Saki’s writing. Saki briefly followed in his father’s footsteps by joining the Imperial Police of Burma, but illness forced him to return to England. He then began to pursue a career as a journalist and political satirist in London, and served as a foreign correspondent in Russia, the Balkans, and France. His first book, a history titled The Rise of the Russian Empire, was unsuccessful. He soon found recognition, however, as a prolific writer of darkly comic short stories, many of which targeted the sensibilities and customs of the British upper class. At 43, Munro—by then a successful author—voluntarily enlisted as a soldier in World War I. He was killed in action by a German sniper in France in 1916. His last words were widely reported to be, “Put that bloody cigarette out!”
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Historical Context of The Open Window

Saki wrote “The Open Window” during the Edwardian period in England, roughly corresponding to the reign of King Edward VII from 1901 to 1910, but often extended to include the 1890s to the start of World War I. The new millennium brought with it a relaxing of much of the rigidity of the prior Victorian era as well as the increased power of the working class and women in society. Though published shortly before World War I, “The Open Window” also eerily foreshadows the conflict with imagery of men leaving for and returning from war.

Other Books Related to The Open Window

Saki’s mastery of the short story has drawn comparisons to American authors O. Henry and Dorothy Parker, both known for their concise, biting wit. Like Saki, O. Henry frequently employed twist endings in his short stories, the most famous being “The Gift of the Magi.” Parker, herself a recipient of the “O. Henry Award” in 1929 for her story “Big Blonde,” often satirized high society and prejudice in her fiction, poetry, and essays. With its focus on the British upper crust, country homes, governesses, and manners, Saki’s work also often evokes that of Irish author Oscar Wilde, particularly Wilde’s farcical play The Importance of Being Earnest. This, much like “The Open Window”, mocks the strict social customs of society and suggests the triviality of propriety.
Key Facts about The Open Window
  • Full Title: The Open Window
  • When Written: 1914
  • Where Written: England
  • When Published: 1914
  • Literary Period: Edwardian
  • Genre: Short story
  • Setting: An English country house in the early twentieth century
  • Climax: Thinking he is seeing ghosts enter the Sappleton home through an open window, Framton Nuttel runs away in horror, much to the confusion of his host.
  • Point of View: Third person

Extra Credit for The Open Window

Nom de Plume. The exact origin of the pen name Saki remains up for debate. It may be in reference to an ancient Persian poem, or a South American monkey of same name.

Private Life. Saki never married and is believed to have been gay. Because homosexuality was considered a crime in Britain at the time, he was forced to keep this part of his identity hidden.