He creates two worlds, seemingly separate, which reflect one another. However, alike a reflection in the mirror, they give an inverted depiction. In my dissertation, would like to concentrate on this reverse relation between the main story and the embedded one. As I mentioned in the introduction, Edgar Allan Poe applies the technique of mirror image. He based “The Oval Portrait” on a series of motives which create exact binary pairs. However, those pairs do not occur together in the text. They appear one after another, interlaced, whereby the reader may be deceived.
This notion resulted in the geometrical shape of the worth story what, on one hand makes the text more complex and cultivated but on the other, more difficult to follow. To begin with, I would like to discuss the setting of the novella. Both tales take place in the same chateau, moreover, in the same chamber. Whereas the reader doesn’t obtain many detailed information about the castle, he is introduced with a more thorough description of a room. Although, locale is identical, the characters’ perspective differs. The main story narrator perceives the mansion as a shelter.
He, being in a wounded condition, can hide there, pass a night safely and recover. He is intrigued by the place and feels united with the darkness of the bedroom. The girl – painters muse from the embedded story – doesn’t share narrator’s perception. She views the chamber as a prison – closed in a turret, abandoned by her lover-artist, surrounded by the moroseness which absorbs her youthful gaiety. In the second place, would like to mention the duration of both stories. Even though, they cover almost the exact length, the course of events is presented differently.
The action within the main story is static. It is a record of a slowly assign evening concentrated on narrators state of mind and his sensations provoked by the pervasive surroundings. The inverted story presents a rather dynamic plot which depicts several years as it was several days. The reader receives a general description deprived of characters’ deep analysis and detailed information about their daily routine. The story shows the most important aspects but does not develop them any further. The next point I want to make is the realization of protagonists and the relation between them.
The common feature of both tales is that they introduce two characters, though from discrete environments. In the case of the main story the action is set between the master and his valet, whereas in the embedded text, between the husband-painter and his wife-muse. Furthermore, both bonds differ in the degree of intimacy. The former describes a Very humane kinship which marks both, the master and the valet. The reader may see reciprocal respect, loyalty and commitment regardless social gulf. The latter is characterized by sacrifice. Wife forgoes the pleasures of life to fully satisfy her husband’s whims.
She is denuded of her being and educed to the role of a resplendent object that needs to be captured. Finally, would like to confront two main male characters I. E. The master and the painter. The starting point to analyze their demeanor is the mutual admiration for the life-likeness of the titular portrait. Even though, they didn’t actively participate in the girl’s fated ending they are equally complicit in the “crime” in terms of their great rapture evoked by the work. What is more, they both experience some sort of a frenzy. Nonetheless, the painters madness stems from his obsession with the realism of the painting.
It constitutes mental fixation. In the case of the master his insanity is caused by delirious fever. He suffers from physical pain which, unable to be eased, gives him delusions. “The Oval Portrait” is one of the few short stories which doesn’t share typical for Edgar Allan Poe features. This novella rejects Gothic and us preternatural to leave space for liberal humanism. However, it does not imply that the work is deprived of artistic values. Quite the opposite. ‘The Oval Portrait” introduces a new technique of placing a tale within a tale.