Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
This story of one individual’s mind under pressure begins casually: “Perhaps it was the middle of January in the present year that I first looked up and saw the mark on the wall. In order to fix the date it is necessary to remember what one saw.” However, what the narrator saw in the external world moments before seeing the mark—that is, the shade of light on the pages of the book she was reading, the three chrysanthemums in a bowl, and the smoke of her cigarette—serve as definite landmarks by which she may locate herself; such location of self becomes increasingly important as the narrative progresses.
The first hint the reader is given about the importance of the narrator’s sense of place occurs in the initial paragraph, when she recalls looking at (besides those other things already mentioned) the “burning coals” in her fireplace, and how this sight caused “that old fancy of the crimson flag flapping from the tower” and the “cavalcade of red knights riding up the side of the black rock.” This fancy is one that she believes was formed in her childhood, and one with which she is not comfortable (presumably because it reminds her of war). Although she does not explain why the fancy is discomforting, it is clear that it is when she says, “rather to my relief the sight of the mark interrupted the fancy.” For a moment, then, she is able to focus on, and to locate herself by, this “small round mark, black on the white wall, about...
(The entire section is 1145 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of The Mark on the Wall Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!