In the story "The Painted Door" by Sinclair Ross, how does Ann justify her discontent in her marriage?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ann has been married to John for seven years.  During this terrible blizzard, Ann did not like being left alone. John’s obligation to his elderly father required him to walk ten miles both ways to see if everything was okay.  Selfishly, Ann did not want him to go; however, she would paint the rooms while he was gone in “The Painted Door” by Sinclair Ross.

What are Ann’s feelings about her marriage and husband?

Basically, Ann loves her husband. Her problem comes from the solitude and loneliness that she endures. Ann feels like an alien in her desolate farm.  The faraway farms that she can see only intensify her feeling of isolation.  John does not talk; consequently, Ann needs someone with whom to talk.

John works hard, and Ann shows nothing but ingratitude. Ann knows that he is trying to pay off the mortgage so that she can have the nice things that she wants.  

On the other hand, John listens to his wife, and he feels pride.  He still does not understand why she would marry someone like him.  He wants to buy her the nice things that she deserves.  That is why he works so hard.

After seven years his absence for a day still concerns her. His trust and earnestness control her again. Ann was eager and hopeful at first; then she became bitter, resentful, and lonely. John would eat and scarcely say a word. He would turn his “stupid brute tired eyes” on her and still say nothing.

It was not the life that she wanted--milking cows and hoeing potatoes.  Something John does not understand--losing their best years--this should be a slack time.  But all John understood was labor. John did not like dressing up in good shoes and a suit. He would rather stand at the window and count the days until spring. Then, this terrible life would start all over again.

As she painted Ann spoke to herself:

I knew we were going to have a storm - I told him so - but it doesn’t matter what I say. Big stubborn fool - he goes his own way anyway. It doesn’t matter what becomes of me. In a storm like this he’ll never get home. He won’t even try.

Sounding like a petulant child, Ann’s ungrateful attitude toward John and his hard work assures that she will continue to dwell in misery.  The more mature but possibly boring John may not ever be able to satisfy Ann.  Finally, Ann looks outside and sees how terrible the blizzard has gotten; and she decides that she will try to go to the barn and take care of the animals.  The wind is so strong that Ann cannot make it. 

After returning to the house, Steven shows up and hugs Ann to help her get warm and not be afraid.  The hug and his touch feel good. Steven tells Ann that John cannot make it back.  When they have eaten and played cards, the tension between them is solved when they have sex and wind up with Steven spending the night with Ann.

Ann concludes that this was wrong.  Steven has no remorse for betraying his friend.  Their liaison means nothing to him.  In her guilt, Ann discovers that John is the one that she really wants.  Of course, this realization comes too late.

John comes in the night and sees his friend and beloved wife in bed together.  In his grief, he wanders out into the cold and freezes to death. Ann understands when she finds a paint smudge on John’s palm when the men bring him back to the house.