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The Moving Finger Analysis

a short story written by Edith Wharton
by Rachel Suttle on 23 April 2013

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Transcript of The Moving Finger Analysis

Theme of Story The story appears to be about love and how it can be deceiving. The death of both Mr Grancy’s wives, the dreadful first marriage and the love affair between Claydon and the second Mrs Grancy can each relate to the idea that love isn’t perfect and isn’t easy. The aging of the painting can be seen as representing how love can become selfish and can represent how love can become possessive.
The Author The Moving Finger Historical Occurrences at that time During the 1890’s the United States was undergoing Imperialism.
Imperialism is the policy of obtaining dependent regions or expanding a country’s influence through foreign trade. 

Industrialisation and mass production allowed industries to overflow the domestic marketplace with merchandise, and led to the growth of businesses and the surfacing of the modern American corporation.

Transportation systems improved—especially that of railroads—allowing producers to move merchandise more efficiently to the marketplace. 

The industrial and agricultural sectors of the economy now produced more than the public could buy, resulting in a downward spiral in the economy, shown by the financial panics that occurred in 1873 and 1893. 

Many business leaders began to expand in overseas countries.
Character Analysis Mr Grancy

The main character in the story. In his first marriage he is overpowered and controlled by his wife. In his second marriage he is seen to “burst into flower”
He is a man of intelligence and is interested in politics.
He loves his second wife devotedly and allows her painting to consume his life after her death.
He is described as a man who is “pitted against one stupid obstacle after another- ill health, poverty, misunderstanding and, worst of all for a man of his texture, his first wife’s soft insidious egotism.
Plot Mr Grancy’s oppressing first wife dies allowing him to become a strong self-confident man. He gets remarried to a beautiful woman who allows him to “burst into flower”. He loves her devotedly and requests Claydon, the portrait painter to paint a portrait of her. Claydon falls in love with the woman and is subject to an affair with her. After three years of marriage, the second Mrs Grancy dies. Mr Grancy moves away to Europe where he escapes his heartbreak by surrounding himself in political work. After several years he comes back, aged, and requests Claydon to repaint the portrait of Mrs Grancy as an older woman, so that she will age with him. Reluctantly the painter does this twice, the second time causing the face of Mrs Grancy to indicate the death of Mr Grancy. After Mr Grancy dies, he leaves the painting to Claydon who repaints it to it’s former beauty and displays it in his studio. At the end of the narrative Claydon exclaims that the “she” belongs to him.
The Title "The Moving Finger"

This relates to the well known saying “the writing is on the wall”, while many can try to ignore what is right in front of them, they cannot deny that it is there. A good example of this is when Mr Grancy says “I’ve wondered, sometimes, at his knowing how she looked when she and I were alone.” Although he does not want to pin point at it, he knows that the only way Claydon was able to depict that intimate look was if he had experienced it himself.
In other words, the ‘moving finger’ can try and point at anything it wants to, but it is hard no to point at what is right in front of it.

The title can also relate to how the second Mrs Grancy had both men wrapped around her finger. They were both devoted to her, wherever she moved, they moved with her.
by Edith Wharton In 1885, Edith Wharton married Edward (Teddy) Robbins Wharton.
Edward Wharton suffered from acute depression from the late 1880’s until 1902, after which, his case only worsened.
In 1908 Edith pursued an affair with Morton Fullerton, a man in whom she discovered an intellectual partner.
In 1913 she divorced her husband and moved to France.
In France, Wharton worked devotedly in assistance to the refugees during world war one.
She died from a stroke in, 1937 on the 11 August in France.
Similarly in “The Moving Finger”, the character of Mr Grancy moves to Europe after the end of his second marriage and surrounds himself with work for “several years”.
It is also suggested in the story that the second Mrs Grancy had an affair with the painter.
Her Writing Style

Wharton’s writing is often about the elite class as she was aristocratic herself.
Edith’s stories take place in vivid settings.
She makes use of satire and moral seriousness in her writing and is well known for her use of subtle dramatic irony. 
Claydon

The portrait-painter, who’s best work was the portrait of Mrs Grancy. He falls in love with this woman and pursues an affair with her before her death.
He is requested by Mr Grancy to return to paint the woman older, which destroys him.
It is the rivalry between him and Mr Grancy over the ownership of Mrs Grancy that drives the story.
The First Mrs Grancy

An overpowering woman who’s “niche was her husband’s life”. She dies in the beginning of the tale and her affection towards Mr Grancy is described as “a drowning clutch”.
The Second Mrs Grancy

She is described as “the most beautiful woman” and is a woman who kept the “inner light” of her youth. A portrait is made of her for Mr Grancy by Claydon, with whom she has an affair. After three years of marriage she dies.
The Narrator

A character who is never named, but his known by Mr Grancy and Claydon. The narrator is shocked by the results of the rivalry between Claydon and Mr Grancy and is seen to feel sympathetic towards Mr Grancy by the way he describes him in his first marriage and by the way that he talks to Claydon, and how he heeds at his failing schemes.
Edith Wharton was born on the 24 January, 1862 in New York City. She was born into an aristocratic society and was well educated. Her occupations consisted of being a novelist a short story writer as well as being a designer.

However, this idea would not explain many of the occurrences in the plot or mould the story together as well as the idea of rivalry being the driving theme throughout narrative.

The rivalry between Claydon and Mr Grancy cultivates and motivates them to do the unexplainable works that they accomplish. Mr Grancy is aware of the affair that Claydon and his second wife pursued. It is therefore understandable why he requests Claydon to paint her older, as he knows it will destroy him. In order for Claydon to attain his revenge he paints her, the second time, with the look that will be to the demise of Mr Grancy.

A question raised on the issue of the theme being rivalry is that of why Mr Grancy would leave the painting to Claydon, his enemy. There are multiple possibilities as to Mr Grancy’s reasoning, being his attempt at making amends before death or his knowledge that Claydon will appreciate the painting as much as he did. However, a reasoning which would fit in with the rivalry approach would be of spite. The painting consumed Mr Grancy’s life, it became an obsession and controlled his life. Mr Grancy, on reflection of his life, would have seen this and by giving the painting to Claydon would instigate a similar effect over his life. Symbolism The Painting

Although an object, the painting is still able to influence the lives of both Claydon and Mr Grancy. The painting is the representation of the second Mrs Grancy and of what she becomes after death; a possession.
Claydon’s Studio

At the end of the story, the painting is placed by Claydon in such a way that it almost seems God-like. Claydon seems to build a shrine for the painting.
This symbolises how the painting has consumed his life. It also represents his attempt of repentance towards his causing of Mr Grancy’s death.
Thank you
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