The Open Window by Saki (H.H. Munro)
In The Open Window by Saki we have the theme of honesty, trust, conflict, confidence, deception, freedom and control. Taken from his The Complete Short Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Saki may be exploring the theme of honesty. Vera’s reasoning as to why the window is open sounds plausible however as the story draws to a close the reader becomes aware of the fact that Vera is being dishonest. It is as though Vera is using Frampton’s vulnerability (his nervousness) to take advantage of him. If anything there is an undercurrent of conflict between both Vera and Frampton. The reader also aware that the conflict has been created by Vera to humour herself. Which may suggest that Vera is not only dishonest but she may also be bored with the life she lives in rural England. It is also possible that Frampton is somewhat gullible. Though in fairness he does take Vera at face value. Which may be the point that Saki is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that not everything or everyone is who they appear to be. There is no doubting that Vera is a young confident girl. However more importantly it is obvious to the reader that she may not necessarily be trustworthy.
What compounds Vera’s deception is the fact that Frampton is of a nervous disposition. If anything Frampton may be not only vulnerable but fragile too. He does not expect Vera to lie to him and as such this may be why he completely believes Vera’s story. What is also interesting about the story is the fact that symbolically the open window can represent two different things. At first it symbolises hope but when the reader discovers the truth the window takes on a different meaning. Symbolizing how receptive or open Frampton was to Vera’s deceit. It is also ironic that Frampton goes to the countryside to find peace however after his encounter with Vera it becomes clear to the reader that Frampton is nowhere near his goal of finding peace. If anything his condition gets worse due to the fact that Vera has lied to him. There is also a sense that Vera by questioning Frampton about how much he knew about Mrs Sappleton is laying the ground work for her lie. She knows that if Frampton is familiar with Mrs Sappleton than she will not be able to deceive him nor will she have any control over Frampton who remains submissive to Vera throughout the story.
It is also possible that Vera feels limited in what she can do due to the constraints that were imposed on women at the time the story was written. She may like making up stories to not only see an individual’s reaction but because by doing so she feels free or in control of her environment. If anything Vera gets the better of Frampton. Something she may not be able to do if she did not make up stories. However it might also be important to remember that Frampton is of a nervous disposition and is vulnerable so he would have been an easy target for Vera. The fact that Frampton’s sister gives Frampton a letter of introduction for Mrs Sappleton might also be significant. It may be a case that Frampton’s sister thinks it would do Frampton good to be around people. However the reality ironically is very much different. His experience of being around people, Vera in particular, has left him unhinged. Frampton in all likelihood believes he is seeing three ghosts when he sees the three men coming towards the window.
The end of the story is also interesting as Vera tells another lie one that is just as creative as her lie to Frampton. What is important about this lie is the fact that Vera appears to be believed for a second time. Something that the reader realises will boost Vera’s confidence even further. If anything Vera through her lying remains in control of her environment. She is able to fool people with her lies. The fact that the narrator advises the reader that ‘romance at short notice was her speciality’ may also be important as the reader suspects that Vera’s ability to tell a lie or make up a story is not limited. Though some critics might suggest that Vera’s actions are harmless. Unfortunately they have had a negative effect on Frampton. Vera tells lies for her own personal entertainment. She is not concerned as to whether her lies will have consequences which may suggest that Vera does not consider she has any responsibility to others. Something that would further play on the theme of freedom. If anything Vera through her lying is free to do as she likes. However her reality is very much different and the need to escape from her reality may be the driving force behind Vera’s lies or story-telling.