The Self-Possessed Niece
Enthralling and surprising, “The Open Window” by Saki effortlessly captivates any reader’s attention with dynamic and entertaining characters as well as astonishing plot twists. The antagonist, Vera, the niece of the owner of the home that Mr. Nuttel is visiting, is possibly more important than the person about whom the story is composed. Throughout the work, there are three characteristics portrayed – undisclosed to the reader until after the dénouement – by the young woman; these include aspects of manipulation, romanticism, and self-obsession.
To trick Mr. Nuttel into believing her story and falling for her prank, the niece must manipulate the nervous man’s perceptions of his surroundings. Vera uses the circumstances at hand to compose a sad, enthralling story she conveys to Mr. Nuttel. The story is believable and therefore Mr. Nuttel, being slightly insane himself, has no doubts of its truthfulness. The niece asks Mr. Nuttel if he “know[s] many of the people around here?” and as soon as he replies with a no, she realizes she can weave this tale and he will blindly believe it. To be able to convince Mr. Nuttel, Vera must be a capable dramatist and romanticist.
Romanticism is portrayed by the young Vera when the reader discovers the whole story is an extravagant lie. After Mr. Nuttel’s violent escape and the surprising return of the hunters, the reader learns Vera created the whole story. She plays her part so well that the author reveals in the final line that “Romance at short notice was her specialty.” Part of the reason she is such a capable impromptu composer is that she is so self-possessed and her disregard for others’ feelings leaves her without regret when she plays her prank on Mr. Nuttel.
The niece doesn’t care about Mr. Nuttel’s feelings or the stress she is putting on his already debilitated nerves, but is only concerned with the success of her prank. Mr. Nuttel shares after his arrival the circumstances of his visit. Part of his reason for visiting is to relieve his nervous anxiety. Vera doesn’t care but furthermore uses this to her advantage. Saki denotes in the first line that she is “a very self-possessed young lady.”
Vera’s manipulative and romantic behavior contributes greatly to her self-obsession. Her characteristics allow insight into her life and the lives of the other characters. As we learn the true meaning of the story, we realize that she makes the story truly interesting. Without the niece, “The Open Window” would be a boring waste of time for any reader.