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The Painted Door

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“Big stubborn fool – he goes his own way anyway. It doesn’t matter what becomes of me. In a storm like this he’ll never get home. He won’t even try.” This passage is an excerpt taken from Sinclair Ross’ “The Painted Door.” In context, this quote exemplifies the protagonist, Ann’s, inner struggle to put proper faith in her husband, John, whose absence during a devastating storm leaves her brooding, ultimately leading her down the forsaken path of adultery. Ross’ evident theme throughout “The Painted Door,” is mainly centered on the misconduct of infidelity. Contained in the short story “The Painted Door,” Sinclair Ross proposes that Ann’s fidelity is compromised as a result of an internal display of weak character; these traits include her selfishness, her acts of vacillation, and her perfidious qualities. Selfishness is a poor quality that all people posses. It defines someone only concerned primarily with their own interests or benefits, regardless of others. Throughout “The Painted Door,” Ann shows numerous examples of why she displays a sense of selfishness. “It isn’t right to leave me here alone. Surely I’m as important as your father” (225).

This quotation portrays a suitable contrast of character between both Ann and John. John, exhibiting selfless and caring traits, wants only to help out his father, an older man incapable of fulfilling all the necessary chores to keep his stable active and his animals alive. “I just wanted to make sure he’s all right in case we do have a storm” (226). It is apparent however that Ann does not realize this, only thinking for herself, and further trying to guilt John into staying by her side so she feels more comfortable. “Pay no attention to me. Seven years a farmers wife – it’s time I was used to staying alone” (226). Here again Ann shows her disapproval with John’s decision to leave her for the afternoon and evening to tend to his father. This time though, it is evident that Ann has taken on a rather snobbish tone, one that confirms how ungrateful and stuck-up she is. Notably, Ann gives a rather meager stereotype to all farmers wives, one in which they are all unhappy with their lives, and that in itself is rather selfish. Sometimes it is not easy to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see things from their perspective. The act of empathizing is one quite difficult for Ann, but it does however greatly strengthen ones character.

People who are constantly changing their minds or decisions support a weak sense of character. Vacillation or indecisiveness is the burden of seeing all the advantages and disadvantages in possible courses of action. It does not take long to realize that Ann frequently demonstrates acts of indecision throughout the story. Once Steven, the man who Ann has an affair with, arrives at the household, Ross alludes her readers to his insolent smile. “The smile too was insolent, but at the same time companionable” (235). This undoubtedly suggests that although Ann finds Steven’s smile somewhat disrespectful, it also associates with her emotionally. “It lit up his lean, still-boyish face with a peculiar kind of arrogance” (235). Briefly after, readers find that Ann becomes somewhat troubled by Steven and his smiles’ presence, “Afraid of his face so different from John’s – of his smile, of her own helplessness to rebuke it” (237).

This undeniably indicates conflicting internal perspectives within Ann, as she cannot decide on whether to feel content and secure with Steven’s company. Just momentarily, Ann’s outlook on Steven’s smile fluxes again, “but in his smile now, instead of the insolent appraisal that she feared, there seemed a kind of warmth and sympathy” (239). It is apparent through hard evidence that Ann struggles with vacillation consistently throughout the story. Her inability to make the righteous decisions and allocate her emotions accordingly, consequently clouds her proper judgment, leaving her in a vulnerable and weak state of mind. For a spouse within a marriage to commit a deliberate act of betrayal is to be perfidious, and Ann unquestionably presents numerous accounts of this. To betray your spouse by your actions and act disloyally is a sign of weak nature. “Scarcely aware of herself she seized his arm… then slipped his other arm around her shoulder. It was comforting and she relaxed against it, hushed by a sudden sense of lull and safety” (235).

Just as Steven arrives, Ann is relieved of her tormenting isolation and thoughts, and essentially throws herself into his arms, begging for a sense of comfort. Although she has encountered a difficult time dealing with the struggle of the ongoing storm, by no means are her actions justified because she knows that John would feel betrayed if he witnessed that. “An hour later when he returned from the stable she was in another dress, hair rearranged, a little flush of colour in her face” (236). This is a clear indication of Ann’s emotional interest in Steven and acts as a source of foreshadowing on the events to come regarding their affair. Although there is a point to be made concerning Ann simply preparing herself for the sacrament of dinning with a guest, it seems as though she has put enough effort to give off a rather provocative tone, consequently enticing Steven to engage further into the affair.

A weak character is one who strays from the moral high ground in their choices and succumbs to the wrongful desires contained within everyone. Within Sinclair Ross’ “The Painted Door,” protagonist Ann showcases several cases of internal weakness. Her selfishness and failure to empathize emotionally, drives her husband away while he is simply trying to do right by his father and help him keep his stable. Ann’s evident indecisiveness leaves her unsure of what she really wants, and ultimately leads her into the regrettable decision to sleep with Steven. Lastly, Ann’s perfidious actions before her affair demonstrates her lack of respect for her marriage, finally leading to her husband’s death. “If you knew him though – John would try.”

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