The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allan Poe: Summary | Questions and Answers | Class 11 English

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The Oval Portrait  by Edgar Allan Poe: Summary | Questions and Answers | Class 11 English
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The Oval Portrait  by Edgar Allan Poe: Summary | Questions and Answers | Class 11 English

The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allan Poe


MAIN INTRO FOR ANSWERS

Note: Add this introduction to your answers to the exam.

This horror short story 'The Oval Portrait' was written by Edgar Allan Poe, a writer from America. It is the story of an artist who wants to paint a painting of his young wife, but he becomes so obsessed with it that he does not realise that in the meantime, his wife is dying. This story was written on April 26, 1845. The main themes of this story are the immortality of art and the mortality of love.


Table of Contents

ABOUT THE STORY

The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allan Poe

This is a short story. "The Oval Portrait" is a gothic (relating to the style of fictional writing associated with the Gothic revival, emphasising violent or macabre events in a mysterious, desolate setting) horror story that has been written by a popular American writer, Edgar Allan Poe. This story involves the disturbing circumstances of a portrait in a chateau. It is one of Edgar Allan Poe's shortest stories, filling only two pages in its initial publication in 1842.


ABOUT THE WRITER

The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe was one of the most famous writers in America and was recognised for his notable creations. Within his short period (40 years) of life, he had written many popular creations that are still popular all over the world. His creations are still taught and learned in many academic institutions. 


MAIN THEME OF THE STORY

The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allan Poe

This story, "The Oval Portrait," is based on the theme of the relationship between life and art. The story has revealed the idea that art can lead anyone towards perfection if it is applied in life in a very positive way. But it can even destroy anyone's life if it is applied in the wrong way.


PUBLICATION OF THE STORY

The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allan Poe

This story was initially published in the year 1842 in Graham's Magazine in a longer version entitled 'Life in Death'. Later on, it was published on April 26, 1845, in the edition of the Broadway Journal in a shorter version with a new name called "The Oval Portrait."


SETTING OF THE STORY

The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allan Poe

This story has a gothic setting of a desolate chateau in the Apennines of central Italy. The setting and the frame narrative technique (a story within a story) of the story have made all the readers feel fearful as well as curious.


MAIN NARRATOR

The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allan Poe

The main narrator of the story is unnamed here. From beginning to end, he keeps on telling his own story, which he has experienced once. He relates the event of one painful night that he had spent with his male servant Pedro in a desolate chateau in central Italy.


MAIN PLOT

The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allan Poe

According to the narrator, he and his valet, Pedro, arrived in front of that desolate chateau during the evening. He was not in a good state. He was seriously wounded. The weather was too cold outside.

:  Here, the narrator hasn't provided us with the background. We don't get proper information about the narrator and his valet, Pedro. We are unaware of the following questions:


■  From where did they arrive there?

■  How did the narrator get wounded?


The narrator adds that his valet, Pedro, took him inside the chΓ’teau forcibly because he found no one there to get permission. Pedro felt for the narrator and his condition in the cold environment outside. He felt it was better to take his master inside.

The narrator mentions the author of the gothic novel, Mrs. Red Cliff. He relates the gothic settings of Mrs. RadCliffe novels to his gothic setting of Chateau. He finds a similar environment in front of his eyes to that of Mrs. RadCliffe's novels' gothic settings.

The narrator describes the things inside the chΓ’teau. He says that his valet took him to one of the smallest apartments in Chateau. The rooms inside the chateau were quite small. It had bizarre architecture from the inside. The room in which they selected to spend their night was full of old and decaying decorations. There were many old paintings, tapestries, trophies, etc. on the wall. He kept looking at these old pictures around him. His valet, Pedro, comforted him on a bed, managing the huge curtains that covered the bed. He closed the heavy shutters of the room in demand of the narrator. He lit the candelabrum for his master too.

We find Pedro very caring and faithful towards his master. His acts of supporting the narrator show his loyalty towards his master. We can consider him an honest and hardworking fellow.

After that, the narrator didn't sleep. He decided to contemplate the pictures of the room. He found a small volume of the book on the pillowcase of his bed, which was related to the background of the painting. He started reading that volume. He read that volume for hours until deep midnight. He felt uneasy reading the volume due to the rays of the candelabrum. He decided to change the place of the candelabrum without disturbing his valet, who was in deep sleep. He moved the candelabrum so that its rays could fully fall upon the book. The rays of the candelabrum fell upon a painting of a bedpost, which he hadn't noticed before. He noticed an oval-shaped portrait of a young girl who was just ripening into womanhood. He hurriedly looked at that painting and closed his eyes. He was startled to look at such a lively picture of that young girl in that oval frame. He felt deceived by his vision. He couldn't believe his eyes. He started thinking about the reason, closing his eyes.


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The portrait of a young girl was so technical. The head and shoulders seemed so great-looking due to their vintage style of art. The oval frame of the painting was beyond description. He felt satisfied with the true secret of its effect. He replaced the candelabrum in its former position. He eagerly sought out the volume and started reading with great enthusiasm.


The Concept Of Frame Narrative in the story (A Story within Story)

:  The readers move along with the story of the narrator and his valet Pedro during the nighttime inside Chateau. But later on, a new story starts within this story. The readers are redirected towards the next story while reading a different story.


New Story

The narrator read the lines of the book, being so curious. According to the story, the woman depicted in that portrait was the beautiful wife of a passionate painter who loved his artwork more than anything else in the entire world. Once, he desired to paint a portrait of his newlywed wife. To fulfil her husband's desire, she became ready to pose for  him.She posed for him, sitting on a chair. The painter started his artwork passionately. She kept on giving him a smiling pose in the rays of the light. The task of painting the portrait continued for weeks. The light rays that fell upon her made her weak and changed her colour. During the time of the artwork, the moody painter didn't ask his wife about her condition. He seemed quite obsessed with his artwork. His wife even didn't reveal her pain, thinking about her husband's pleasure. The painter locked himself and his wife in the chateau's tower. The colour of her face started changing, and she became weak. The painter focused his mind on painting every change in colour on her face. He brushed the mouth and placed a tint on the eye. When he completed his artwork, he cried with a loud voice, saying, "This is indeed life itself." Finally, when he turned his artwork to show his wife being so happy, he found his wife dead on that chair.



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