In the tale "The portrait of the lady." Did he blame himself for his wife's death? : LUSENET : The Work of Edgar Allan Poe : One Thread

I am doing an essay about Poe, and I want to concrete my ideas about the subject. When I read the story it came to my mind that maybe he was blaming himself because of his wife's death. Am I right?

-- Anonymous, September 14, 2000



I must presume your essay is to be written on the subject of Edgar Allan Poes short story, The Oval Portrait. I have always found this to be an interesting tale in that it is so brief and yet the bulk of storys text appears expressly designed to setting up the final paragraph. While this is not at all unusual in Poes works, here he does it to good effect.

By this, I simply mean to say that the narrator of the story goes on at length to characterize and illustrate for the reader the circumstances for his visit to the abandoned chateau; the somber setting of the apartment and his wounds and weakened condition. In particular, his description of the oval portrait is given in very thorough detail and with no small measure of attention to its artistic perfection.

Initially shaken by the vision of the painting, he wondered what had so moved him as to startle him from his exhaustion and leave him wide awake. He freely admits that As a thing of art nothing could be more admirable than the painting itself. Yet, he confesses that it was certainly not the exquisite execution of the painting, nor was it the matchless beauty of the figure in the portrait. Least of all, was it his weariness and susceptibility to surprise because he had recognized it immediately for what it was, a painting. At first confused, after considerable deliberation, he came to recognize that it was the paintings incredible life-likeness, the visual realism portrayed in artistic form that had startled him. Once his curiosity is satisfied, he is left dismayed and determined to read about the portrait in the book he had discovered on the pillow.

In the final paragraph, the narrator, reading from the volume, finds that the subject of the painting was a beautiful young maiden of rarest beauty and not more lovely than full of glee. She had fallen in love and wed a young painter who was  passionate, studious, austere and having already a bride in his art Outwardly gentle and loving of all things, she came to loathe his art and to despise his brushes and the other tools of his passion. Subservient and deferential to his wishes to portray her in art, she suppresses her anguish and gloom and sits for him day after day. He immediately threw himself into the glory of his work and while his passions mounted, the passions were for his work and there was none for her to share. His daydreams too were consumed by the painting so that he became lost and distracted as she continued to sit for him, unnoticed and unseen by her beloved. Her health begins to suffer and it appears that the painting is drawing its perfection directly from her. As the painting matures, her health and spirits decline and yet she remained and, without objection, continued to sit for him. His passions increase and after many weeks, as the painting nears completion, each stroke of the brush seems to steal from her spirit, each tint strips her beauty, and finally, the upon concluding the painting, it robs her of her life.

Now, nowhere in the final paragraph does Poe state or even infer that the painter had come to blame himself for her death but this is not really unusual for Poe. In fact, the tale ends precisely where your question would have been answered. Regardless, I often think it was his intent for the reader to draw their own conclusions. For me well I would like to believe the painter was at least capable of grieving for his bride and perhaps that is why, in his misery, he abandons the chateau, all the paintings and his lifes deepest passion. His art!

Are you right, Katty? Absolutely! How could you think otherwise. : )


-- Anonymous, September 14, 2000

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