The night before the story takes place, a “double wheel” appeared around the moon. This double wheel (which is usually caused by ice crystals high in the atmosphere) is taken by all of the characters to represent a coming storm. The “storm” it predicts, then, is not only the actual blizzard, but also the dramatic events in the story which end in John’s death and the destruction of a marriage. Ann at first tries to use the double wheel to convince John that it is too dangerous to leave the house, then to convince herself that he won’t come home. At the end of the story, the neighbors are surprised that John left the house even though he saw the double wheel. John’s disregard for the double wheel is representative of his blindness to the problems in his marriage, but also his dogged devotion to Ann. Likewise, Ann’s obsessive desire to believe that John will pay attention to the double wheel represents her inability to recognize the extent of the disconnect between her and her husband.
The Double Wheel Around the Moon Quotes in The Painted Door
“He was south of here,” they said wonderingly when she told them how he had come across the hills. “Straight south—you’d wonder how he could have missed the buildings. It was the wind last night, coming every way at once. He shouldn’t have tried. There was a double wheel around the moon.”
She looked past them a moment, then as if to herself said simply, “If you knew him, though—John would try.”