The oval portrait [ e.a. poe]

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  • Publié le : 21 novembre 2010
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This short story, written and published in 1842 by Edgar Allan Poe, was originally named Life in Death. Poe decided in 1845 to excise the text, conserving only the most important elements in The Oval Portrait .These elements are not the ones we see at first – an easily read gothic story- but are about others issues, more sophisticated. Through the study of the atmosphere and the characters ofthis tale, we will demonstrate the gothic beauty of the text and find its symbolical interpretation.

The atmosphere of a text is, for Poe, an important aspect for the frame of the story. Here the gothic genre is perceptible and allows the author to demonstrate the power of his narrative strategy.
The inaugural sentence of the text sets a lugubrious, mysterious and unusual environment: we cannote the lack of every kind of temporal mark (except one time indicator for the hour) and the continuous confusion between the real and the dreamlike. The story indeed takes place in a castle but not a particular castle, “one of those piles of commingled gloom…” into the “Apennines” but also into “the fancy of Mrs. Radcliff”: nothing is defined; the story evolves in a kind of smog, of mystery…This is the testimony of the traditional gothic genre, making the reader uncomfortable (we easily imagine the weather, bad and violent, during the night…), and betwixt the real (the castle…) and the unreal (a sublime, abandoned and antique mansion).
The room where the entire action takes place is an isolated chamber; “one of the smallest and least sumptuously furnished apartments” located in a“remote turret” and is proof of the antiquity of the place, full of history yet tattered and dated: characteristic elements of the melancholy (which is crucial for the end of the story). This feeling is amplified by the presence of numerous tapestries and paintings, other evidences of the past and of the mysteries of this room, which acknowledge the flip into the marvelous. The bizarre is alsopronounced by the strange architecture of the room with “dark nook” and especially because of the “small volume […] upon the pillow” which describes and criticizes the numerous and weird paintings of the room.
The general impression of the atmosphere of the scene is that it takes place between two worlds, a real and an unreal one, as time has stopped for a moment. The action is set within thisatmosphere, as the story evolves into another dimension. This impression is further nuanced by the characters of the tale which increase the strangeness of the story.

The characters indeed are drawn by Poe to hitch and also to confuse the reader, muddling up the vision with the hazes of the sick spirit.
In the first instance, there are the real characters: the narrator and his valet. It iscertainly question of an aristocrat, wounded and also drugged by opium (this element can be easily imagined and appear in the first publishing of the short story Life in Death), accompanied by his servant, who queerly disappears in the rest of the story. Thus the narrator, so, recounts the story through the present time, trough his drowsy and drugged eyes alluded to by many examples: “incipientdelirium”, “the dreamy stupor”, “my fancy”, “half slumber”.... These elements are supported by the sign of time passing: the hour go by, “Long, long I read […] Rapidly and gloriously the hours flew by […]”, during which the narrator’s spirit drops off, until “the deep midnight”, the traditional hour for horror and supernatural events. This feature of this narrator is also enhanced by his loneliness(the valet just disappears): he is alone in an abandoned castle, in his bed, bleeding, raving… and around him, there is a crowned of faces, of portraits, looking at him.
The numerous portraits which are omnipresent in the room are also a sign of the fantastic. Apart from a museum, a concentration in a chamber of many portraits is something unusual, and the discovery of the young’s bride’s...