The characters in “The Painted Door” are defined by their loyalties and the sacrifices they make for the people they love. John is deeply loyal to his wife Ann, and he expresses this by working hard year after year in the hopes of providing her with a better life someday. Ann has been loyal to John throughout the seven years of their marriage, but she secretly resents some of the sacrifices that being married to him has required of her, particularly the social isolation of their farming life. For John, sacrifice is the ultimate expression of love and loyalty. Ann understands the necessity of some sacrifice, but she sees it as a necessary evil and something which makes it more difficult to remain loyal to her husband.
Because of the sacrifices he makes for a better future, John unintentionally drives Ann away from him. John is too focused on the idea of saving money for their future to see that she is unhappy in the present. When Ann feels she can no longer stand the sacrifices required of her marriage to John, she commits an extreme act of disloyalty by sleeping with Steven. Ann’s attempt to “have it all” by remaining married to John while exploring the excitement of Steven ends in a harsh reality check. In the end, Ross shows us that loyalty always involves a sacrifice of some kind. Each of the characters must give something up to hold onto whatever they feel is most important. When Ann betrays her husband, she gains the attentions of Steven and the possibility of a more exciting life, but she loses the love and security of her marriage. When John kills himself, he gives Ann the freedom she seemed to want and avoids all conflict with her, but he loses everything in the process.
Loyalty and Sacrifice ThemeTracker
Loyalty and Sacrifice Quotes in The Painted Door
“You said yourself we could expect a storm. It isn’t right to leave me here alone. Surely I’m as important as your father.”
He glanced up uneasily, then drinking off his coffee tried to reassure her. “But there’s nothing to be afraid of—even supposing it does start to storm.”
“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.
But now, alone with herself in the winter silence, she saw the spring for what it really was. This spring—next spring—all the springs and summers still to come. While they grew old, while their bodies warped, while their minds kept shriveling dry and empty like their lives. “I mustn’t,” she said aloud again. “I married him—and he’s a good man. I mustn’t keep on this way. It will be noon before long, and then time to think about supper...
He was erect, tall, square-shouldered. His hair was dark and trim, his lips curved, soft, and full. While John—she made the comparison swiftly—was thick-set, heavy-jowled, and stooped. He always stood before her helpless, a kind of humility and wonderment in his attitude. And Steven now smiled on her appraisingly with the worldly-wise assurance of one for whom a woman holds neither mystery nor illusion.
Looking down at him as he slept, half smiling still, his lips relaxed in the conscienceless complacency of his achievement, she understood that thus he was revealed in his entirety—all there ever was or ever could be. John was the man. With him lay all the future. For tonight, slowly and contritely through the days and years to come, she would try to make amends.
“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.”