The Painted Door

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The Painted Door Symbol Icon

The painted door of the story’s title represents Ann’s desire for both control and excitement in her life. Ann wishes that she could have new, pretty things and live a more exciting life, but she feels unable to do anything to make that happen. She paints the bedroom door when John leaves her home alone to keep herself busy, and to make their little house seem new and exciting. This seems to work at first, but later she acknowledges that the weather is too cold which means the paint won’t dry nicely, and that it has only distracted her from her boredom for a short amount of time. When first she, then John smudges the paint, it not only provides a crucial plot point to the story (as the paint from the door on John’s hand shows that he did come home and see Ann in bed with Steven) but is also representative of moments in which the true nature of their marriage and their feelings for each other is revealed.

The Painted Door Quotes in The Painted Door

The The Painted Door quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Painted Door. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Loyalty and Sacrifice Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dell Books edition of The Painted Door published in 1980.
The Painted Door Quotes

“Warm and safe—I’m a fool. It’s a good chance when he’s away to paint. The day will go quickly. I won’t have time to brood.”
Since November now the paint had been waiting warmer weather. The frost in the walls on a day like this would crack and peel it as it dried, but she needed something to keep her hands occupied, something to stave off the gathering cold and loneliness.

Related Characters: Ann (speaker), John
Related Symbols: The Painted Door
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:

Even when she is alone, Ann tries to make sure she is keeping up the role of the good wife. Painting the door and the rest of the kitchen is a way for her to keep herself busy, and also an attempt at bringing something fresh and new into their dull, repetitive home life. She knows that whatever distraction or pleasure the paint brings her will fade quickly, but she decides to paint anyways because she doesn’t know what else to do. This is similar to her superficial attempts to get John to change by asking him to stay home or shave, when she knows that she has not addressed the deeper problem of their different wants and needs.


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She was young still, eager for excitement and distractions; and John’s steadfastness rebuked her vanity, made her complaints seem weak and trivial. She went on fretfully, “If he’d listen to me sometimes and not be so stubborn we wouldn’t be living still in a house like this. Seven years in two rooms—seven years and never a new stick of furniture... There—as if another coat of paint could make it different anyway.”

Related Characters: Ann (speaker), John
Related Symbols: The Painted Door
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:

Because of the stereotype that young women can be frivolous and want silly things while men are frugal and practical, Ann sees her own desires as embarrassing and invalid. On some level, however, she knows that they are more than just silliness. Ann believes that by spending a little more and saving a little less, they could both be enjoying life in a larger space. All she can do is express her thoughts gently to John, however, and he does not feel obligated to listen to her. Painting the inside of the house is Ann’s attempt to take control of something she doesn’t want in the first place, and she feels frustrated by the feeble amount of agency she is limited to.

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The Painted Door Symbol Timeline in The Painted Door

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Painted Door appears in The Painted Door. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Painted Door
Loyalty and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Time and Aging Theme Icon blankets over the door to keep out the draft, and Ann accidentally smudges the freshly-painted doorway . As Steven continues to insist that John will not risk the storm to come... (full context)
Loyalty and Sacrifice Theme Icon
Isolation vs. Connection Theme Icon
Time and Aging Theme Icon
...and holds his cold, frozen hand, she notices something. There is a little smear of white paint on his palm. (full context)