The Open Window



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The Open Window: Style 1 key example

Explanation and Analysis:

The style of “The Open Window” is governed by Saki’s word economy. Satirical and witty, the story is driven forward by dialogue. Saki is minimally descriptive of the characters’ physical appearance and their environment. For example, the reader knows nothing about what Mr. Nuttel looks like or is wearing. The only detail Saki provides is that he has a stick and hat with him, but this is not until the end of the story, when Mr. Nuttel runs away. Similarly, the only hint Saki provides about Vera’s appearance is that she is a “young lady of fifteen.” Because there is no information about where the characters are standing or sitting in relation to one another, this is also something the reader has to visualize without Saki’s descriptive aid. The room itself receives some description, but only because the details are decisive for the plot. The reader eventually learns that, according to Mr. Nuttel’s instinct, there is something masculine to the room and that it features “a large French window that [opens] on to a lawn."

Besides the necessary contextual details—that Mr. Nuttel has gone to the countryside to cure his nerves, that his sister gave him letters of introduction to connect with people there, and that Mrs. Sappleton is one of these people—there is also minimal information about the characters’ backgrounds and motives. The characters speak for themselves, suggesting that what matters most about their identities is directly related to how they behave in social situations.

Instead of dwelling on descriptive characterization, then, the story uses dialogue, action, indirect interior monologue, and the third person narrator’s commentary to shed light on the characters. Throughout “The Open Window," Saki generally remains concise in all of these categories; he includes only what is absolutely necessary to tell the story. Nonetheless, he indulges the need for long-windedness in certain portions of dialogue, notably when Vera tells tall tales and when Mr. Nuttel jabbers about his ailments. He also plays with longer, more stumbling sentences in Mr. Nuttel’s indirect interior monologue in order to animate the character’s neurotic thought patterns. Saki's word economy lends extra impact to these parts, as his short and sweet style accentuates their wordiness. 

“The Open Window” ends on a short sentence that encapsulates the story’s pithy style: “Romance at short notice was her speciality.” This sentence subtly conveys to readers that Vera’s stories were false from the start. The word "romance" refers to imaginative storytelling rather than love stories, as Saki wants to be sure that the readers understand that both of the stories she narrated were completely made up—even if Mr. Nuttel and Mrs. Sappleton continue to remain in the dark about this. The tongue-in-cheek delivery of this final sentence is directly related to the story's epigrammatic style. Before letting the reader go, Saki uses this concise yet witty sentence to identify Vera, and perhaps by extension himself, as a perceptive and punchy storyteller.