- The wounded man:
- The painter:
- The young wife:
- Time setting
- Physical setting
- Social setting
Narrator and point of view
- Metaphors and similes
- The wounded man
- The painter
- The young woman
- The portrait
- Light and darkness
Theme and message
- The relationship between art and life
- The destructive power of love
The wounded man, the main character is seeking refuge and takes shelter in an abandoned chateau and spends the night there.
He spends his time admiring the paintings in the heavily decorated apartment. The art in the chateau is abandoned so when the narrator arrives, the paintings purpose is regained.
He spends several hours studying the paintings and artwork becomes alive again metaphorically. He then discovers a portrait of a young women, that is absolute lifelikeness and he decides to explorer the story behind the painting.
He finds a book that describes a tragic story, about a young woman of the rarest beauty who died in a tragic way, as the result of her husband’s obsession with creating the perfect portrait of her.
He cared more about his work than her. The young woman sits for her husband, so he can paint her, and she continued sitting here for him.
Times go by, and he really takes his time. In his obsessing with the painting, he didn’t notice that she had died.
The short story begins in media res. We learn that the wounded man (the main character) and his valet (Pedro) take refuge in an empty chateau in the Apennines.
Although the author does not explain why man is wounded, this detail for the narration indicates a backstory.
The man’s valet, who we later learn is named Pedro (l. 14 p. 1), forces the door of the abandoned chateau
which reminds the wounded man of the gloomy castles often depicted in Ann Radcliffe’s Gothic romance novels:
“The chateau (...) was one of the piles of commingled gloom and grandeur which have so long frowned among the Apennines, not less in fact than in the fancy of Mrs. Radcliffe.” (ll. 4-7 p. 1).
Radcliffe’s books are characterized by their use of sinister castles and abandoned buildings and by the presence of supernatural or unexplained forces, murders, and mysteries.
This is the first foreshadowing element, as it encourages readers to expect something similar in Poe’s story and indicates that the wounded man (the main character) will discover something mysterious in the chateau.
As the exposition continues, we learn that the wounded man and Pedro stay the night into one of the chateau’s apartments.
Although described as more modest than the rest of the castle, this apartment is richly decorated with tapestries, trophies and “an unusually great number of very spirited modern paintings in frames of rich golden arabesque“ (ll. 10-11 p. 1).
By emphasizing the large number of paintings, the author creates another foreshadowing element, which suggest that the story will involve one these paintings
The main character settles in and asks Pedro to light the candelabrum so that he can study the paintings and a small volume which describes them.
Another foreshadowing element is created as the main character mentions that his deep interest in the paintings might originate in his “incipient delirium (l. 13 p. 1).
Although the reason for this delirium is specified - it might be his wounds - this suggests that the main character’s fascination with the oval portrait might also be caused by his altered state of mind.