the oval portrait exercise
The Oval Portrait Exercise: Questions and Answers Grade 11 English

Understanding the text 

Answer these questions.

a. Where did the narrator and his servant make a forcible entrance?

➜ The narrator and his servant Pedro made a forcible entrance in a desolate Chateau which was located in the Appennines of central Italy. The narrator was seriously wounded. His valet didn’t want the narrator to stay in an open-air. He took the narrator inside Chateau forcibly without anyone’s permission.

b. Which special picture did the narrator notice in the room?

➜ The narrator noticed an oval-shaped picture of a young girl in the room when the rays of candelabrum fell on it. The narrator didn’t notice it before. The young girl seemed just ripening into womanhood in that picture. The picture of that woman was so beautiful which attracted the narrator’s attention. 

The oval picture of a young girl made him awake and too much curious. He kept on reading the history behind the portrait in his serious state. He was totally engrossed in finding its background through the book which he had found in bed.

c. Describe the portrait that the narrator saw in the room.

The portrait that the narrator saw in the room was quite artistic and life-like. The narrator saw it when the rays of candelabrum fell on it. The portrait was oval-shaped with a beautiful picture of a young girl on it. Its frame was richly decorative. The young girl seemed just ripening into womanhood. The narrator seemed completely startled to find the lady’s shoulder and head with radiant hair so real. The brushwork of tints in portrait seemed so real in the portrait. 

The narrator felt a sudden impulse to notice that portrait. He closed his eyes once and opened. He couldn’t believe his eyes to see such wonderful artistic creativity.

d. What is the relationship between the portrait painter and its subject?

The relationship between the portrait painter and its subject is husband and wife. The husband of the subject (lady) is a passionate painter who has painted his wife’s portrait. He has Painted his wife’s portrait taking many weeks.

Reference to the context 

a. What is the central theme of the story? Who is the woman depicted in the oval portrait?

The central theme of the short story ‘The Oval Portrait’ is the relationship between life and art. This Story has shown the destructive power of art and love. Art and love can lead anyone towards perfection whereas they can bring destructive results in our life too. The painter of this story has become successful through his artistic works but his wife has become the victim of his artistic tasks. She loves her husband extremely that’s why she doesn’t reveal her pains. The story has shown bad results of excessive passion for something. The woman depicted in the oval portrait is the wife of a passionate painter who has painted this oval portrait.

b. “The Oval Portrait” is a short horror story by Edgar Allan Poe involving the disturbing circumstances surrounding a portrait in a chateau. Elaborate.

➜ This short story has presented a terrible and gloomy setting of a desolate Chateau in one of the mountains range (Appennines) of central Italy. The Chateau which we find here in this story is completely deserted and very old fashioned. The setting inside and outside seem very terrible. The apartments inside Chateau are so unmanaged and dirty. The apartment where the narrator and his valet stay have many things for decoration but all of them are in decaying state. The life-like portrait has been placed in one of the dark corners. The surrounding of the life-like portrait is so disturbing due to the unmanaged condition everywhere. The arrival of the visitors also has added distance in the environment. The portrait seems quite valueless in that desolate environment of the Chateau.

c. “The Oval Portrait” suggests that the woman’s beauty condemns her to death. Discuss.

➜ “The Oval Portrait” suggests that the woman’s beauty condemns her to death. Here, the wife of the painter is so beautiful who has just stepped into womanhood. The painter wants to paint her portrait. He is a quite passionate painter who loves his artwork more than anything. He places his wife on the chair to pose for him. He is totally obsessed with his artistic work. The Painter takes weeks to paint her portrait. During his task, he doesn’t notice his wife health condition who becomes quite weak. By the time he finishes the portrait, he finds his wife lying dead on the chair.

d. Discuss the story as a frame narrative (a story within a story).

➜ The frame narrative is a literary technique that reveals about a story within a story. It starts with a different plot and setting of story but later immerses out with the next story within it. Here, this technique reveals us how a single story involves the next story within it. The story starts with different information about the narrator and his valet with a different setting. The readers here move along with the Story’s flow at first but later on the next story starts within it with an amazing description of oval portrait, its detail and background information. The readers reach up to the next level of the story. The technique of frame narrative works showing a single story and the next story within it.

e. The story is told in a descriptive style, with plenty of imagery and symbolism. Which images and symbols do you find in the story?

➜ Here in this story, we find various images and symbols. The writer has used images to present his horror elements beautifully here in this story where there is immense use of darkness and light. The image of desolate Chateau in the Appennines has created beginning thriller for the audience. Similarly, the image of two visitors in the dark desolate setting has increased the reader’s curiosity. Inside the Chateau, the writer has used many images to present the setting of apartments, torrent etc. Here, we find various images as dark rooms, wall tapestries, trophies, the oval painting among other paintings, candelabrum, book, rays of light etc. The historical background of the oval portrait also has presented the image of the painter and his wife in a high torrent of the Chateau. The perfect use of images has this story with gothic elements beautifully. Like images, the symbols also have played a vital role to understand this story in its deeper level. The oval portrait symbolizes mortality of love and immortality of art. This portrait has snatched the life of its main subject (painter’s wife). Her love for her husband leads her to death whereas her husband passion for artwork has snatched her life and made him immortal in his artwork. Next symbol which we find here is the time during artwork. This time during artwork symbolizes the painter’s obsession where he has forgotten everything around him and led his wife to the death.

f. What does the expression “She was dead!” mean?

➜ The expression was dead” means the shocking moment of the death of the painter’s wife on the chair. The painter was quite obsessed with his painting. He was totally engrossed in his task of painting. He forgot to inspect his wife’s condition. He kept on painting his wife’s portrait for weeks. When he turned his painting towards his wife being happy, he found his wife dead posing on the chair. Here, the artwork took the life of its main subject.

Reference beyond the text 

a. Do you think there is life in art?

➜ I don’t think there is life in art. Art is just a creation to display which has meanings related to different things. But, in a literal sense, artists create life in art. They try to find out life within the art.

b. As a thing of art nothing could be more admirable than the painting itself. Explain.

➜ This statement is absolutely right about painting. Painting is really a very admirable form of art. The painters really work hard to create quality paintings with meanings. The painting itself speaks in its literal manner. Painting provides us with facts related to life. Here in this story, the oval portrait is one of the finest examples which has startled the narrator. He feels completely puzzled to see that painting. He wants to know about its and painter.

c. A more intense look at the painting reveals the illusion. Have you noticed any such painting?

➜ Yes, I have noticed such painting. The painting becomes more meaningful when it is watched by the viewer who is passionate about paintings. But, for those viewers who don’t have an idea about paintings find illusion all the time. In my case, I watched a typical painting for a long time but I didn’t get meanings about it. I tried a lot to grasp its meaning but vain. Later on, I got its meaning from my friend.