Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 315
There are only two clear characters in the poem "This painted lie you see," the subject of the painting and the viewer. The work is written by the subject of the painting and it's a direct message to the viewer, addressing the many ways the painting misrepresents reality. Throughout the poem, the author references time/fate as a force in the world and in doing so creates fate as an additional character in the poem.
The Author: Juana Inés de Asbaje y Ramírez de Santillana, often known by her chosen name Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, is both the subject of the painting and the author of the poem. She has lived a life and shows the obvious signs of aging that come with that. The poem, she argues, attempts to cover up the reality of her changing image and, instead, makes her seem young and smooth, as if she's immune to the physical aging process.
The Viewer: In the context of the poem, the viewer is both the specific person reading the poem and everyone who has ever looked at the painting. The author explains that the viewer is looking at a lie. Since the painting does not properly represent the subject, it leads the viewer to misunderstand the truth. The author tries to encourage the viewer to see beyond the limits of the painting and to understand that the image there is fleeting and captures a moment in time that passed long ago.
Fate: The author refers to fate throughout the poem, using the term to represent the actuality of aging and the passing of time. Fate represents reality, the true nature of the author's aging face and the future we will all ultimately see. The painting ignores this reality, and the author wants the viewer to see, admit, and understand the truth that fate comes for us all.