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The Painted Door Seminar

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Sydney Bradshaw

on 30 October 2013

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Transcript of The Painted Door Seminar

The Painted Door
Sydney, Brittany, Quinn
In "The Painted Door", Sinclair Ross explores the physical and emotional effects of isolation and loneliness on a woman yearning for love.
Wait...I totally forgot what the story was about!
Don't worry, we've got you covered.
o Shes selfish and dependent on John: “It isn’t right to leave me here alone. Surely I'm as important as your father.” (pg 225)

oFeels abandoned [in marriage and literally]

o When she doesn't get her way she acts almost childish (staring out the window and blowing against the “frosted plane” (pg 225)

o Her attitude changes very quickly (At first she acts dependent and childish but moments later tried to asserts her independence from him)

o She feels superior to her husband and feels she deserves a more interesting existence; doesn't want to be a 'farmer's wife'

o "Pay no attention to me. Seven years a farmer's wife - it's time I was used to staying alone." (226)

o She craves a sense of adventure; Steven becomes the catalyst to make her life more 'exciting'

o Dependable, hard-working; has a strong sense of duty

o Incredibly loyal to his wife but not necessarily in the way that she wants: "To him it seemed only right... that he, fit for nothing else, should slave away fifteen hours a day to give them to her." (229)

o Very simple and solid: "He was a slow, unambitious man...naively proud of Ann." (226)

o His endless work leaves little time for anything else, and he has lost his youth: "...but the only difference that it all made was... to make him a little duller, older, uglier than he might otherwise have been." (229)
o Young and handsome; took advantage of Ann's situation

o She is attracted to the differences that he has from her husband; nothing more

o He does not care about what he has done. "...she came to understand that for him no guilt existed." (243)

o Could be viewed as the antagonist
Doors & Paint
Opening and closing / beginnings and endings
She paints the door with a fresh layer of white to add new perspective to her life and to keep her occupied
Trying to "cover up" the past and start again
White paint represents innocence and transition
The paint is smudged first by her when Steven first comes over, foreshadows her future actions
“I’d forgot…that I painted the bedroom door….I’ve smeared the blankets coming through.” (238)
Later smudged again by her husband; destroying Ann's innocence and beginning a new chapter in her life
The paint can also show how bored and unhappy with her life she is
She spends her day painting the door, knowing that it is too cold for the paint to dry, because she has literally nothing else to occupy her time
The paint is also used as proof that John actually returned and it wasn’t just Anne’s dream
“On the palm, white even against its frozen whiteness, was a little smear of paint” (244)
• Symbolic of Ann’s isolation; are in turn symbolic of the setting.
• Makes the reader really aware of how strained she is as she is trying to pass the time.
• Always mentioned before they talk about the silence around her: “The clock ticked. The silence now seemed more intense than ever.” (231)
• The ticking fills in the silence, emphasizing the emptiness in her life
• It is also a parallel to time itself passing
• We are made out understand that Ann is dissatisfied with her life; she wants more excitement
• The clock ticks allude to her realizing that time is running out in her life and she hasn’t really done anything that has made her truly happy

The Door / White Paint
Fire vs Cold
• Many of the objects seem to come alive in the story
• Makes it seem as though Ann is not alone; always being watched
• Emphasizes her guilt; feels as though she is being scrutinized from every angle
• At the same time, Ann could be seen as adding human characteristics to inanimate objects in order to find some semblance of humanity in her isolation; some of these characteristics are more animalistic than human: “…a mane of powdery snow reared up breast-high against the darker background of the stable, tossed for a moment angrily, and then subsided again as if whipped down to obedience and restraint.” (231)

• The entire story contains a strong sense of irony: Ann wishes that her life turned out differently
• With the loss of John, she finally has the ‘freedom’ that she so craved, but she ends up being nothing but sad and guilty
• She realized that the one she did truly love was gone forever; it was too late
• It’s portrayed that she cheats on John to keep her from being lonely and because she finally gives into a temptation she’s fought for so long
• This backfires on her, as John dies she no longer has anyone left in her life
• The affair with Steven also provides a level of irony in the story
• Ann finally gets the thing she craved most: Steven has always seemed better than her husband and everything she wanted
• When she finally gets him, she realizes that John was a much better person, but it is too late as she has already made the mistake of sleeping with him

• The two major events of the story, Anne cheating and John’s death, are heavily foreshadowed throughout the story
• It is repeated numerous times in the story that John always come back no matter how bad the storm
• “Twice a week before we were married I never missed, and there were bad blizzards that winter too” (226)
• “He always comes. There couldn’t be a storm bad enough” (236)
• These quotes show the reader that john would make it back from the storm
• “Across the hills in a storm like this, it would be suicide to try.”
• John does make it back from the storm but goes back out after seeing Anne with Steven, essentially committing suicide
• As soon as Steven arrives at Anne’s house, her sleeping with him is foreshadowed
• She constantly compares him to John and finds she prefers Steven: “While John, she made the comparison swiftly, was thickset, heavy-jowled, and stooped.” (235)
• She changes her dress and hair to appear more attractive for him
• “It brought a reminder that she had changed her dress and rearranged her hair. It crushed in sudden silence” (237)
• She is very anxious and guilty from the moment Steven arrives
• “She spun around sharply, fancying it was John at the door” (237)

Stylistic Elements
Nicely mirrors the tension in the story

Remote location - adds to Ann's feelings of loneliness and isolation

Snowy weather adds a blanket over the world; almost like covering up the truth (similar to the white paint)

Adds a veil of secrecy over the situation
• Cold and fire are used to reflect Ann's changing emotions about John
• At first, Ann sees the cold is her enemy and fire is her all
• The cold and snow intensify her sense of isolation; the farmsteads on the prairie seem lost
• "Rather they seemed to cower before the implacability of snow swept earth and clear pale sun-chilled sky" (226)
• The fire’s warmth comforts Ann; helps her cope when the silence becomes too much to bear
• "It was the silence again, aggressive, hovering. The fire spit and crackled at it."(228)
• The fire seems to be fighting at Ann’s loneliness
• At first snow is compared to snakes, but after the affair the metaphor is used with fire instead
• "The whips of light still flicked and coiled, but now suddenly they were the swift little snakes that this afternoon she had watched twist and shiver across the snow." (240)
• She now uses the cold as a punishment: "...seized by a sudden need to suffer and atone, she crossed to where the draft was bitter, and for a long time stood unflinching on the icy floor." (242)
• Cold numbs the pain she feels after betraying her husband

Fire and Cold
• Three types: Platonic, Romantic, Lust
• Platonic – John and Ann [based on mutual need / logical; dependent; not very physical or emotional]
• Lust – Steven and Ann [purely physical; no depth to relationship]
• Romantic – What Ann craves; she needs to strike a balance between the two extremes
• Thinks that Steven will restore the balance in her life; instead leads her to her downfall
• “Her eyes were frantic, believing desperately, fixed upon him as if to exclude all else, as if to find justification.” (239)

• Guilt is one of the biggest themes in the story
• Becomes more apparent in the end after Ann has an affair with Steven
• Ann wakes up and sees a shadow coming towards her; thinks it’s her husband
• We are not sure if this truly happened; it is apparent, however, that her guilt is manifesting
• In the end of the story, guilt becomes a driving force: “She had not let herself understand or acknowledge it as guilt before, but gradually through the wind-torn silence of the night his face compelled her.” (241)
• The guilt she feels here makes us sympathetic because she acknowledges her mistake
• She knows she’ll never get a chance to fix it or make it right because John is now gone

Temptation / Choice
• The temptation Anne faces can be seen as an allegory for the story of Adam and Eve
• Instead of an apple that provide forbidden knowledge, there is Steven who Anne thinks can provide her with the life she wants
• Steven can also represent the devil, as he seems to be exactly what she wants but once he has done what he came to do he disappears
• John’s death represents when Eve is kicked out of the garden of Eden
• After she cheats on him, she realizes how much she loved John who is now dead
• She is left completely alone, which was what she was trying to avoid in the first place
• She also has to live with the knowledge that John knew that she betrayed him
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