What is the summary of Isak Dinesen's story, "The Blank Page"? 

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Blank Page" is a story by Danish writer Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) published in 1956 in her short story collection Last Tales. It is strongly influenced by her residence in Africa and her appreciation of traditional story-telling.

The story begins with a young couple approaching a traditional storyteller, an elderly woman sitting in front of the city gates. The storyteller talks about how she learned the story and her own training as a storyteller and then begins the story proper.

The story describes a convent in Portugal where nuns weave the sheets used by royalty and nobles on the first nights of their marriages out of a special kind of very fine flax. These sheets are only used once, and then displayed as evidence of the virginity of the bride. What is implied but not stated explicitly is that blood on the sheets indicates that the hymen of the bride was intact thus serving as proof of the virginity of the bride.

The royal family cuts a square out of each of the sheets used by princesses and sends them to the convent where they are framed and displayed. Again, it is not explicitly stated, but implied, that the squares include some trace of blood. 

Among these sheets is the "blank page" of the title:

The frame of it is as fine and as heavy as any, and as proudly as any carries the golden plate with the royal crown. But on this one plate no name is inscribed, and the linen within the frame is snow-white from corner to comer, a blank page.

Many of the nobles and nuns meditate in front of these rows of sheets, including one elderly spinster, but it is in front of the blank page that visitors stand the longest and think most deeply.

Read the study guide:
The Blank Page

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