A Masterful Story by Saki and the Horror of Human Nature by Shirley Jackson
The Open Window
Although Saki’s short story The Open Window isn’t strictly horror, it has that wonderful twist ending so typical of the horror genre. We the readers know at the end of the tale that there are no real ghosts approaching the house, but since the main character remains unaware of that fact, it is indeed a horror story to him. It is also a wonderful opportunity to illustrate the importance of symbols in literature to students as well as a chance to discuss the theme of “romance”, not as a love story, but as someone who has an overly dramatic flair in a work of literature. This will be a tale students will not soon forget.
Use the downloadable power point to introduce the story, the vocabulary and the important quotes. Have students answer the critical thinking questions and then give them one of the two quizzes as take home practice; using the other quiz for a quiz grade in class the next day. Discuss with your students what the window may have symbolized for each of the characters and for the author himself as an important figure in the story.
The Possibility of Evil
Moving on to Jackson’s short story, discuss with students that horror is not always in the form of ghosts and goblins, but of one person haunting another by causing them intentional mental harm. Much like the young girl in Saki’s tale, the old woman in Jackson’s story uses mind games on the people in her town in order to make them feel guilty, ashamed, or even sad over things that she suspects they have done. Unlike Saki’s young heroine, this woman gets her come-uppance at the end of the tale.
Use the downloadable power point and quiz to teach Jackson’s short story and then, as an extra assignment, have them write an essay compare and contrast the two stories. You’ll be amazed at all the similarities the students will find!