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The Painted Door

The Fire and the Cold

Sinclair Ross, author of the short story "The Painted Door", uses cold and fire to reflect Ann's changing emotions about her relationship with her husband, John. In the beginning of the story, Ann sees the cold as her enemy and fire as her ally. As John prepares to leave her to go visit his father, Ann looks out on the snow covered prairie landscape. The presence of farmsteads in the snow do not comfort her. Instead, the scene in the snow intensifies her sense of isolation. To her, the farmsteads seemed futile and lost. "Rather they seemed to cower before the implacability of snow swept earth and clear pale sun-chilled sky" (48) The fire comforts Ann from the sense of isolation the cold brings and gives her a sense of security. When the silence becomes too much for her, the fire helps her cope. "It was the silence again, aggressive, hovering. The fire spit and crackled at it."(50) The fire fights the loneliness that Ann feels.

Sinclair uses snake imagery in his description of the cold. "Across the drifts sped swift and snakelike tongues of snow." (53) Later on in the story, the cold and the fire switch rolls and the fire becomes evil. After her affair with Steven, Ann feels guilty and distressed. The fire now becomes the snake. "The whips of light still flicked and coiled, but now suddenly they were the swift little snakes that this afternoon she had watched twist and shiver across the snow." The snake represents the evil and temptation which Ann finally gives into.

Ann regrets her disloyalty to her husband and needs the cold to punish her. "...seized by a sudden need to suffer and atone, she crossed to where the draft was bitter, and for a long time stood unflinching on the icy floor." (64-65) Ann welcomes the cold because it numbs her from the pain of betraying John. The fire and the cold play important roles in illustrating Ann's feelings throughout the story. In the beginning she fears the cold and seeks comfort from the fire. At the end, this fire becomes evil and she seeks the cold.

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