Comparing the Open Window and the Tell-Tale Heart

Using the Ideas of Northrup Frye to Compare The Open Window and The Tell-Tale Heart Brett Eiffes According to Northrup Frye’s book, The Anatomy of Criticism, there are two different modes of prose: the romance and the novel. In the case of shorter prose he calls them the tale and the short story. The short story, The Open Window by Saki, and the tale, The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe, demonstrate these two modes of prose fiction. While reading The Open Window I found it a more realistic and extroverted story while the Tell-Tale Heart was more of an unlikely and introverted story.

These two different stories each show different aspects of the tale and the short story. Both of these stories were set in a house however, we know that The Tell-Tale Heart is set in a house in the past as result of a few details Edgar Allan Poe reveals. For example, the speaker uses a lantern and he also states, “the shutters were close fastened” (2). We are also not entirely sure why the speaker is in the Old Man’s house or why he belongs there. This tale is set in the past in a mysterious location, both of which are characteristics of the tale.

In contrast, The Open Window is set in a lavish, early twentieth century English home. The story has a more contemporary setting compared to that of The Tell-Tale Heart. Although the stories both take place in a house, the time in which they are set is different. These two stories also have two different viewpoints. The Tell-Tale Heart is a first-person narrative, which relies on the narrator, while The Open Window has an omniscient third-person viewpoint. These viewpoints reflect the ideas, developed by Northrup Frye, of the tale and of the short story.

The types of characters introduced in each of these stories is different, in that Saki presents us with believable, everyday people while Edgar Allan Poe presents us with characters who are larger than life. The main character of Vera in The Open Window has a mix of good and bad characteristics. She is introduced as “a very self-possessed young lady of fifteen” (140). However, we then learn that Vera lied to Mr. Nuttel about the passing of the Sappleton family.

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We see two different sides of this character, the cool and collected fifteen-year-old girl and the story telling liar. Vera is seen as a typical teenage girl, messing with people and putting on a nice smile. She is a believable everyday person. We are never told who the main character presented in The Tell-Tale Heart is; however, we do know he is narrating the story. This mysterious character is larger than life and he convinces the readers that he is mentally insane. This is proven when he shrieks, “’Villains! ’… ‘dissemble no more!

I admit the deed! – tear up the planks! -here, here! – it is the beating of his hideous heart! ’” (6). This is often a common characteristic of characters in tales. Both of the main characters present in these stories fit the ideas of Northrup Frye. The different plots demonstrated in these stories also reflect the ideas presented by Northrup Frye. The Open Window is a possible story in which the characters maneuver around a central situation. The central situation is the idea of the Sappleton family dying in a shooting accident.

This is different compared to the plot demonstrated in The Tale-Tell Heart, which allows for the suggestion of unrealistic forces or powers, for example supernatural elements. The plot of this story leans towards fantasy. The plot in The Open Window reflects the characteristics of the short story, while the plot in The Tell-Tale Heart reflects the characteristics of the tale. When compared, these two stories are tragically different. They are both classic examples of the two different types of prose fiction.

The Open Window perfectly exemplifies the short story, a contemporary, realistic setting and plot with believable, everyday characters. In contrast The Tell-Tale Heart reflects the ideas of the tale by presenting a supernatural plot occurring in the past. These two stories reflect the ideas of prose of Northrup Frye. As a member of Moorestown Friends School, I affirm my honesty, academic integrity, and responsibility to the school community by neither giving nor receiving unpermitted aid during this assessment. ______________________________________________

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