What are some character qualities of Ann in the story "The Painted Door" by Sinclair Ross?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sinclair Ross in his story “The Painted Door” portrays a couple caught in the middle of a wintry blizzard.  Adultery, dissatisfaction, and betrayal---these heartbreaking aspects of humanity infiltrate the lives of Ann and John.

The couple have been married for seven years, and John had been doing nothing but working from daylight to dusk every day.  Ann knew that John was a good man; however, sometimes a woman needs fun and conversation which really were not a part of John’s makeup.

On this terrible wintry day, John needs to walk ten miles to check on his elderly father.  He promises Ann that he would return later in the evening no matter what.  He also tells that he will send Steven, a neighbor, over to keep her company until he returns.

Description of Ann

Ann, selfishly, does not want to be left by herself in the storm.  In her heart, she knows that John would not be able to rest unless he had checked on his father. Living on a farm in Canada during the 1930s meant a life of isolation.

John provides the basic needs for her: food, lodging, and warmth.  Emotionally, Ann needs more.  Lonely and desperate for a real life, Ann tries to be dutiful in her marriage.  John loves her and wants to be able to provide for her.  He wants to pay off the mortgage on the farm before he will do anything else. 

It was just an effort to convince herself that she did have a grievance, to justify her rebellious thoughts, to prove John responsible for her unhappiness.  She was young still, eager for excitement and distractions; and John’s steadfastness rebuked her vanity, made her complaints seem weak and trivial. 

As a young woman, Ann wants to have fun.  In her heart, she would like to strike out and find someone to talk to—Steven.  Ann has already danced with him several times at a barn dance. 

Obviously, Ann is not lazy.  She paints the inside of the house to occupy her time during the first part of the day.  Submission to her husband was the norm for a woman in this time period.  However, it does not stop the intelligent Ann from wishing that her husband had some different qualities.

Since Ann desires so much more from life, she fails to see the good qualities of her husband.  Her ungrateful attitude toward his hard work and his obvious adoration of her place Ann in a vulnerable position when Steven comes over to help and keep her company.

After having sex and spending the night with Steven, Ann finally realizes that it is John that she really loves and needs. Unfortunately, the blizzard provides a way out for John when he discovers that his best friend and beloved wife have betrayed him. 

Thinking that she had dreamed that John had come into the room and looked down on her with Steven, Ann learns that it was not a dream.   When she looks at John’s corpse, Ann discovers the smudge of paint on his hand and knows that John saw her and Steven together.