In “The Painted Door” by Sinclair Ross the setting is an important aspect of the story. The plot would develop differently if the setting were changed.
This story takes place in the winter during a blizzard which is so bad that no vehicle can transverse the roads.
There are three characters involved with the story. The protagonist is Ann who is married to John. Steven is John’s best friend and the closest neighbor.
The Importance of the Weather
As the story begins, the blizzard is just beginning. John needs to walk the ten miles necessary to check on his elderly father. Ann, selfishly, does not want to be left alone although she knows that John will not rest until he is able to check on him. John tells Ann that he will ask Steven to come over and keep her company until he gets back home.
John promises Ann that he will return home regardless of the weather. She is unhappy about him leaving her but tells him that she will paint the inside of the house while he is gone.
The main character is very unhappy in her situation. She loves her husband, but is lonely and depressed about her life. Isolated and without many material comforts, it has been seven years with John working from dawn until night trying to pay off the mortgage so that he can buy the nice things that he feels Ann deserves.
Painting the rooms will pass the time. She gets through with her painting realizing that the paint will take forever to dry because of the cold weather.
As the weather worsens, Ann needs to check on the animals and feed them. The wind blows so hard that she ties a rope to the porch so that she keeps from being blown down. She makes it about half way and cannot go any farther because the weather is so bad. The animals may die if they are not fed and seen to in this kind of weather.
Returning to the house, Ann is discouraged about not getting to the barn. Steven shows up and goes down to take care of the animals for her. She fixes supper and then they try to play cards. The tension between them is evident. They wind up in bed making love. Steven stays the night because he convinces Ann that John will not be able to make it home.
Ann wakes up in the middle of the night thinking that she had just had a dream. She saw John in her dream standing over her and Steven. Then, suddenly, he is gone. She gets up and looks around and finds no evidence, so it must have been a dream.
This meant nothing to Steven. Ann realizes that John is the man that she really wants and needs. Steven shows no remorse or guilt over the indiscretion.
In the morning, some men find John less than a mile from home. Drifting with the storm, he had run against his own pasture fence and overcome had frozen there, erect still, both hands clasping the wire.
“He was south of here,” they said wonderingly when she told them how he had come across the hills.
The men bring John inside the house. Ann was left alone with him for a few minutes. As she takes his hand and looks at his palm, Ann discovers there is a paint smudge on his hand.
It had not been a dream. John had been there and had seen the two of them in bed. He was devastated. Obviously, the weather controls the story. If it were a desert or extremely hot, the circumstances might be similar. Without the extreme blizzard, the story would have changed completely.