The Open Window

by

Saki

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Themes and Colors
The Absurdity of Etiquette Theme Icon
Fiction and Perspective Theme Icon
The Romance of Hypochondria  Theme Icon
Innocence and Guile Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Open Window, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The Absurdity of Etiquette

“The Open Window”—Saki’s tale of the anxious Framton Nuttel’s ill-fated encounter with the precocious young storyteller Vera in the English countryside—is, ultimately, a satire of excessive decorum. Saki wrote the story during the Edwardian Era (1901-1914), when British social mores were beginning to loosen. In the story, Saki positions the excessive social graces of the previous period as shallow and arbitrary, but also as actions that, ironically, allow for rudeness and deception.

In “The…

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Fiction and Perspective

“The Open Window” uses its story-within-a-story structure to explore the interplay of truth and imagination. Whether viewed as a cruel prank or an enjoyable practical joke, the stories that Vera makes up in “The Open Window” control the perspectives of everyone around her.

Saki mines comedy from contradicting perspectives, as Vera’s story results in a farcical disconnect between Mr. Nuttel’s experience of the world and Mrs. Sappleton’s. Based on Vera’s story, Mr. Nuttel…

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The Romance of Hypochondria

In the story of Mr. Nuttel going to the country to search for the “nerve cure” for his anxieties, Saki lampoons not just the strict etiquette of the previous (Victorian) era, but also its tendency to romanticize the English countryside, tragedy, and illness.

The exact nature of Mr. Nuttel’s condition is never specified beyond being a vague issue of “nerves.” His prescription for “complete rest, an absence of mental excitement, and avoidance of anything in…

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Innocence and Guile

Saki subverts expectations of naiveté, as the young, too-easily-dismissed Vera handily manipulates the adults around her. In “The Open Window,” age does not necessarily confer wisdom, and a childish demeanor can mask audacious cunning.

In the opening line of the story, Mr. Nuttel immediately observes that Vera is a “very self-possessed young lady,” yet nevertheless fails to detect her prank. This is in large part because, in keeping with her self-possession, Vera knows how to…

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