High School Selection
This week we are reading “The Open Window” by Saki. It is a tale of unexpected revelations set in England in the early 1900s. Below are links to the print version of the story and the audio version of the story. The print version is about two pages and the audio takes about eight minutes. Below the story links are a short history of Edwardian England and a brief biography of the author, H. H. Munro, who used the pen name Saki. There are also some questions to consider after reading the story. If you enjoy “The Open Window” and want to listen to more of Saki’s stories, here are links to audio versions of “Tobermory” and “The Lumber Room” and text versions of “Tobermory” and “The Lumber Room”.
Saki (1870–1916) Saki is the pen name of Hector Hugh Munro. He was born in Burma (now called Myanmar) in Southeast Asia, where his father, a Scottish military officer, was posted. Later, in England, Saki’s mother died, and he and his siblings were raised by their grandmother and two aunts. Although living with his strict and often-bickering aunts was an unpleasant experience, it helped Saki develop the mischievous sense of humor that later made his writing famous. Saki is well-known for his funny yet often creepy stories. It has been said that when we read his stories, “our laughter is only a note or two short of a scream of fear.” (From Skills in Action)
The Open Window & Edwardian England (1901-1919)
This story is set during the Edwardian period in England. The Edwardian period was a period in England directly following the long Victorian era. King Edward VII ruled from 1901-1919 during what is known as the Edwardian Era.
The early twentieth century was a time of great technological advancement and social changes for many western nations. This was especially true in England during this time. Its imperial reach was at an all-time high, with one in three people in the world’s population under England’s imperial power (PBS). The Titanic was built during this period. Bookended by two wars (the Boer War and World War I), the Edwardian Era was a time of peace and prosperity. Some even refer to it as the “Gilded Age.” However, the era was not prosperous for everyone and class distinctions were very strong. The rich lived in excess and many were like overlords to their servants and people of lower classes.
Though H.H. Munro ultimately enlisted to defend England, many of his stories satirize the bourgeois nature of the Edwardian Era. H.H. Munro lived the very lifestyle that Saki mocked, a fact that further explains Munro’s use of a pen name: it satisfied a need to separate his satire mocking Edwardian England from the reality that he was living in that very place and pursuing the very lifestyle his stories mock. (Gradesaver.com)
Questions about “The Open Window”
You may remember from the Harry Potter series that veritas serum is a potion that will make someone tell the truth. J.K. Rowling based this on the Latin word veritas, which means “truth.” Given this information, do you find Vera’s name to be ironic? Did Mr. Nuttel’s name or Mrs. Sappington’s name strike you as meaningful in relation to their characters?
Looking back on the story, were there some signs that Vera had a mischievous nature? Do you think her aunt suspects she has a mischievous streak?
What would you do when the hunters entered the house if you were in Mr. Nuttel’s place? Do you feel sorry for Mr. Nuttel?
Psychology was a new science when this story was set. Do you think “the nerve cure” was beneficial for Mr. Nuttel? Do you think he visited any more of his sister’s acquaintances?
Selections for Pre-School, Intensive Support, and Elementary
Click here for a video reading of The Sneetches