The Oval Portrait Summary

The story “The Oval Portrait” was written by an American poet, literary critic, and editor. Edgar Allan Poe. In this story, he presents an artist who wants to make a painting of his young wife, but becomes so obsessed with it that he does not realize his wife is dying at the same time. It is a horror story which shows the relationship between art and life. Here, the narrator saw the oval portrait of a young woman in a big house in the series of mountains in Italy (Appenines). It is a frame narrative story (a story within a story). This story is told by the narrator and he knew the story of the oval portrait from the book which is another story.

The narrator was wounded. He and his servant were searching a place to spend a night. They were in the range of mountains (Appenines) in Italy. They saw a big building (chateau) there. So, without taking anyone’s permission, they went inside the building forcibly. They found the building was like the fancy of Mrs. Radcliffe (she was an English pioneering writer of Gothic fiction of writing in which fear, horror, death, gloom and romance are shown around a big and old house). The rooms were very beautifully decorated with trophies and the modern paintings. The furniture in the rooms looks impressive and expensive. The decorations were very attractive but they were old and torn.

The narrator told his servant to close the doors and get him to sleep. He was also lying in the bed but could not fall asleep. He was looking the paintings around the walls. There was a painting which he could not see properly because there was not adequate reaching upon the painting. He did not want to trouble his servant. So, he changed the position of the candelabrum to pour more light upon the picture. He saw the picture completely and attracted to it very much. The picture was in oval shape. That was the picture of a young girl. She was very beautiful. Only her head and shoulders were shown in it. Her arms, bosom (breasts), and the ends of her radiant hair were very attractively shown which extremely allured him. He put the candelabrum in its former place. He found a book under his pillow in which he found the descriptions of that Oval Portrait. He found it very interesting because a painter made that painting of his newly married wife. He was very crazy in his art work.

He made his wife sit on a chair for weeks. His wife did not like his art work because of it he did not love and care her. But she loved her husband very much. So she did not speak against him and gave the same pose for weeks just to keep her husband happy. He concentrated on his work only and ignored his wife. Because of his ignorance, his wife became weaker and paler. Even in such a condition of his wife also, he was concentrating on his art work and remained unknown about his wife. He was busy to give a final tune in it so that it would be a perfect painting of his wife. As soon as he finished his art work, he turned it to show his wife saying, “This is indeed life itself!; he found that his wife had already died and she was dead and stiffened on the chair in the same position. Finally, the painter was shocked in her unexpected and untimely death.

The story gives us a lesson that the young woman’s beauty condemns her to death. We also learn that we should not be that much crazy in our work being unknown about our own family members or surrounding.

The Oval Portrait Questions And Answer: Understanding the text

Answer these questions.

a.Where did the narrator and his servant make forcible entrance?

Ans: The narrator and his servant made forcible entrance in the chateau.

b. Which special picture did the narrator notice in the room?

Ans: The narrator noticed the oval portrait of a young woman in the room.

c.Describe the portrait that the narrator saw in the room. 

Ans: The portrait that the narrator saw in the room was in an oval shape. That was a picture of a young girl. It had only head and shoulders in a vignette manner. The arms, the bosom, and the ends of the radiant hair melted imperceptibly into the vague deep shadow which formed the background of the whole. It was richly gilded and filigreed in Moresque.

d.What is the relationship between the portrait painter and its subject? 

Ans: The relationship between the portrait painter and its subject is husband and wife.

Reference to the context

a.What is the central theme of the story? Who is the woman depicted in the oval portrait? 

Ans: The central theme of the story is life and art in which the painter painted his newly wedded young woman but he did not realize that his wife was dying at the same time of painting. He was so crazy

and egocentric in art so that he would not care his wife. His devotion of art caused the death of his beloved. Her beauty condemns to her death. The art brought a destructive result. His young wife is the woman depicted in the oval portrait.

b.”The Oval Portrait” is a short horror story by Edgar Allan Poe involving the disturbing circumstances surrounding a portrait in a chateau. Elaborate. 

Ans: The Oval Portrait” is a short horror story by Edgar Allan Poe involving the disturbing circumstances surrounding a portrait in a chateau. The narrator and his valet made forcible entrance in a chateau because they were searching a place to spend a night. The apartment in the chateau was decorated in an old fashion. Its decorations were rich, yet tattered and antique. The walls were hung with tapestry and there were armorial trophies together with a great number of modern paintings. The narrator did not see the oval portrait at first. He found a book having the descriptions of those pictures under the pillow. He later on saw the oval portrait of a young girl. In the book, he found the description of this picture that it was painted by a painter. He painted his wife because she was very beautiful. She loved her husband very much. So very humbly sincerely and uncomplainingly, she gave a pose for weeks although she got weaker and paler. When the painter finished it and turned towards his wife to show the life itself in the art, his wife was dead. It is horror that art takes her life for which the painter’s ignorance towards his wife and her beauty itself are responsible for her death and it brings a destructive result.

c.”The Oval Portrait” suggests that the woman’s beauty condemns her to death. Discuss. 

Ans: “The Oval Portrait” suggests that the woman’s beauty condemns her to death. Based on the story, it is definitely true because the painter had a very beautiful wife whose appearance he wanted to paint on the canvas so that he could make her immortal through art. It can be said that if she were not beautiful, he might not want to paint on the canvas. Thus, she had to sit in the same position for weeks without love and care of her husband who was massively dedicated in his task which caused the death of her wife.

d.Discuss the story as a frame narrative (a story within a story).

Ans: Yes, the story is a frame narrative. In other words, it means a story within a story. The story is narrated by the narrator when they went to a chateau to spend a night. When they made forcible entrance in it, they found that the apartment was decorated very nicely with many things including the modern paintings. He saw the oval portrait of a young woman. He was curious to know about the background of that particular picture because he was much attracted to it. He knew about the oval portrait after reading its story in the book that he had found under the pillow. The story about the picture was- there was a painter who was very crazy in his work of art. He painted his newly married wife who was young and very beautiful. She did not like art because her husband did not love and care her as he was devoted in the portrait. When he completed his task and wanted to show it to his wife, she was already dead because she had to spend her weeks in the same position and she became weaker and paler. So, here are two stories: one is said by the narrator to us; and another is the story of the portrait written in the book which the narrator read.

e.The story is told in a descriptive style, with plenty of imagery and symbolism. Which images and symbols do you find in the story? 

Ans: In this story, we can find many images and symbols. The author has used images to show his horror elements beautifully. He has extremely used darkness and light. The image of desolate Chateau in the Appenines has created a kind of thrilling moment to the readers.

Similarly, the readers have a curiosity of their visit to such a place. The author has used many images to present the setting of apartments, torrent, etc. in the apartments of chateau. There, we can see many images like dark rooms, wall tapestries, trophies, the oval portrait, modern paintings, candelabrum, book, rays of light etc. The book has also given a detailed description of the painter of the oval portrait and its subject. Here, the author perfectly uses the images to have gothic elements beautifully and effectively. Likewise, the author has also used the symbols to make readers understand the story in its deeper level. The oval portrait symbolizes mortality of love and immortality of art.

This portrait has taken the life of the painter’s wife. Her love for her husband leads her to death. Her husband’s passion for his artwork becomes a curse for his wife she says nothing although she is about to die and makes him immortal in his artwork. Another symbol used in the story is the time during his artwork. This time symbolizes the painter’s obsession where he has forgotten everything around him. He even forgets his wife because of his ignorance she becomes weaker and paler and finally dies.

f. What does the expression “She was dead!” mean? 

Ans: The expression “She was dead” means a shocking moment for the painter. The painter was quite obsessed with his painting. When he had completed the art and turned it towards his wife to show, he found that his wife had been already dead on the chair who had a passion to give a pose for her husband’s artwork for weeks. He was entirely busy in his painting. He forgot to see his wife’s condition. His craziness in his artwork took the life of his young wife. So, he was shocked looking at the condition of his wife.

Reference beyond the text

a.Do you think there is life in art ? 

Ans: I don’t think there is life in art. Art can be taken as a creation of a person in which, of course, there is a subject. In the story, The Oval Portrait, the painter has created the beauty of his young wife; but at the same time, that portrait has taken her life. Whatsoever, we can say literally that artists can create life in art and they try to find out life within the art.

b.As a thing of art nothing could be more admirable than the painting itself. Explain. 

Ans: Regarding painting, this statement is right. We all take the paintings are really a very admirable form of art. There are various forms of art. Among them, painting is one of the effective forms to convey the deepest meaning of any subject created by the painter. The painters really have different thoughts and creations to create quality and meaningful paintings. We can find many writers who have written based on the paintings. For example, the poem, “Musee de Beaux Arts” by Wystan Hugh Auden was also written based on the paintings. Painting itself speaks literally that can be understood even by an illiterate person. Painting provides us various aspects of our life to understand. In this story, the oval portrait of a young woman is an example which has startled the narrator.

c.A more intense look at the painting reveals the illusion. Have you noticed any such painting?

Ans: Yes, I totally agree with the statement “A more intense look at the painting reveals the illusion.” have also noticed such a painting, i.e. the painting of Mona Lisa painted by a famous painter, Leonardo da Vinci. Although the painting looks simple, it creates more mystery and more meanings. The deeper we view it, the more illusion we find in her smile. Different people have explained her smile differently and even the researchers could not reach to the same conclusion about her smile. In my case also, when I watch this painting, each time I am puzzled about her smile that creates illusion to understand.