Themes

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Last Updated on July 10, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 437

The Value of Storytelling

In "The Blank Page," Isak Dinesen highlights the importance—and the long history—of storytelling. Storytelling is depicted in the text as a means of giving out important information and of teaching valuable life lessons, as well as a source of livelihood for the teller. The old storyteller at the beginning of the narrative explains that she learned the art of telling stories from her grandmother and that her grandmother learned the art from her own grandmother.

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Making the Invisible Visible

One aspect of the value of the storyteller's art is in the storyteller's ability to make known to their listeners things that would otherwise be hidden. In "The Blank Page," the old woman describes for her listeners a tradition concerning the bridal sheets used the night a princess is married. The sheets are never used again, as they serve to display evidence of a princess's virginity. Thus the storyteller's power lies, in part, in making the invisible visible.

The Power of Silence and the Unknown

Dinesen depicts storytellers as having the ability to transmit life lessons and cultural values through the elements of narrative. In "The Blank Page," the storytellers (Dinesen and the old woman) encourage readers and listeners to consider the value and power of silence and the unknown, both in stories and in life. This idea is shown in the story's two different references to the idea of silence or a blank page.

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Latest answer posted December 6, 2016, 4:20 am (UTC)

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The storyteller recalls that when she was a young girl, her grandmother told her that if she is loyal to a story, the "silence will speak." This idea is later symbolized by the blank bridal sheet displayed in the convent. Not only is the sheet blank, but there is no name inscribed on it. For this very reason, visitors who come to see the sheet are drawn to it.

For storytellers, the idea of the "blank page" relates to the idea of the power of suspense and the value of leaving some things unsaid. When a storyteller or writer does not fully reveal all the facts of a tale, the reader or listener is filled with curiosity and begins to reflect on the story. Using this technique, the storyteller is able to fascinate their audience with the unanswered questions the story raises. This sense of intrigue constitutes the greatest success a storyteller could attain.

Dinesen's story illustrates a valuable lesson for readers, as it reveals the theme of silence and its power. Sometimes, words left unsaid have greater influence than words uttered, and silence is a valuable tool that a storyteller—or perhaps any person—can use to their advantage.

Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 441

A pure and ancient tradition, whenever preserved with integrity, may reveal to perceptive persons deeper truths than are ordinarily apprehended. Such a truth, a vision of truth, or an epiphany, is the revelation and the theme of “The Blank Page.” Many continuing traditions intertwine and illustrate this view in this story. The tradition of storytelling itself is traced through a long lineage, back to a grandmother’s grandmother and even back to the time when Scheherazade herself told a thousand and one tales. The continuing tradition and blessing of growing flax and making fine linen comes from the Holy Land, from the Jewish bride Achsah to Portugal, to the Carmelite sisters, the brides of Christ. The blessing pronounced on the Blessed Virgin, her Immaculate Conception, and the promise through Christ of spiritual salvation, continues to be a promise of spiritual salvation to the virginal sisters of the convent. The tradition of publicizing and preserving the evidence of virginity comes from olden days to within living memory, according to the storyteller.

The tradition of storytelling produces good stories. The tradition of flax growing produces good linen. The tradition of publicized morality brings about public recognition of that morality. The tradition of spiritual seeking brings about the promised salvation. By establishing the norm, traditions maintain their standards, but they also tend to stereotype and limit personal discovery.

Perceptive persons may and do see more than others beyond the preserved traditions, if they look for a special meaning for themselves: The crusader who brings back the seeds of the flax plant sees the possibility of growing flax in his homeland; the sisters’ faith, stronger than the average Christian’s, makes them commit themselves to the truth of their religious tradition as revealed to them. The canvases in the convent’s gallery tell the standard stories of virginity and lend themselves to omen readings, which are no more than fallible predictions. However, the blank page makes people stop before it and ponder life, true morality, or simply the truth about the unnamed princess. It may even make people look within themselves for deeper meanings.

Traditional stories with plots and character also throw some light on life and human nature. However, the story that has no plot and no individualized characters may reveal a deeper truth. Those persons who look for a deeper meaning through their own contemplation—the lady and gentleman of the story, the old spinster who knows much about life and morality, the sisters of the convent, or the mother abbess herself—discover it in the silence beyond words. They discover it as a revealed truth, as an epiphany, on the blank page.

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