The Open Window: Characters & Analysis

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  • 0:03 Framton Nuttel
  • 1:22 Vera
  • 2:43 Mrs. Sappleton
  • 3:49 The Supposed Ghosts
  • 4:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Joseph Altnether

Joe has taught college English courses for several years, has a Bachelor's degree in Russian Studies and a Master's degree in English literature.

Saki tells a story about a practical joke played by a shrewd young girl. The young girl's prank disrupts the formality and quiet of the aristocratic lifestyle. All the characters add their personality to her story, which helps sell her story of the fantastic.

Framton Nuttel

Meeting someone for the first time can be nerve-wracking. You want to make a good impression, so you are mindful of manners and formal speech. If children are present, that complicates the meeting further, as you attempt to find some common ground with them as well. This is the situation under which Framton Nuttel finds himself in the opening scene of Saki's ''The Open Window.'' He has arrived at the Sappleton estate with an invitation to make their acquaintance.

Framton Nuttel has moved out to a more rural part of the country as part of his ''nerve cure.'' His doctors want him to refrain from any ''mental excitement, and avoidance of anything in the nature of violent physical exercise.'' Framton's sister worries that he will ''bury (himself) down there and not speak to a living soul.'' To help him get out and meet people, she provides him with invitations to meet some of her acquaintances.

Upon entry to the home, Framton engages in a discussion with Mrs. Sappleton's niece. He falls under the spell of one of her tales and is led to believe that Mrs. Sappleton's husband is deceased. When he sees Mr. Sappleton and Mrs. Sappleton's brothers walking toward the house from the bogs, his nervous condition is agitated by their sudden appearance, and Framton runs off abruptly without a polite word of farewell. Framton's fright could have been prevented had he recognized certain verbal clues in his discussion with the niece.


Vera is introduced as the niece of Mrs. Sappleton. She is a ''young lady of fifteen.'' She also seems to be quite adept at deception, or at the very least, telling tall tales. She is polite and gracious when she meets Framton Nuttel. She tells Framton that ''her aunt will be down presently. . . in the meantime you must try and put up with me.'' After fulfilling the role of hostess, she then proceeds to question Framton about his acquaintances and how well he knows her aunt.

These types of questions should give Framton pause as to why she asks about his relationships with the locals. She could be curious about him, or trying to engage in polite conversation. Vera, though, measures Framton to determine what kind of story she can tell and have Framton believe it. She decides to describe how her aunt's husband passed away in the bogs. When Framton sees this same man approaching the house shortly after the story, he turns toward Vera ''with a look intended to convey sympathetic comprehension.''

Vera just stares ''out through the open window with dazed horror.'' She completely sells her story. Framton dashes out of the house without a word or explanation. Vera shows how well she has developed her craft when she indicates that Framton has ''a horror of dogs.'' She proves to be very adept at telling stories and having ready explanations to cover up any deficiencies. It would be interesting to know what kind of young lady lies beneath all that deceit.

Mrs. Sappleton

Mrs. Sappleton is the epitome of British grace and manner. She behaves as one would expect from a member of the aristocratic class. She descends from the stairs ''with a whirl of apologies for being late in making her appearance.'' She engages Framton in idle small talk until she mentions the impending arrival of her husband and brothers. Then she discusses how they will ''make a fine mess over my poor carpets.'' It would seem her primary concern is about appearances.

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