A Hand Painted White Analysis

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“A Hand Painted White” portrays a couple trying to cope with the hardships of marriage in the middle of a harsh and depressing winter. Ann and John live on a distant farm that is separated from the rest of society. It is this isolated setting that exposes this couple to vulnerability. The tension present between their personalities and desires drive the events that become integral to the story. Through characterization, theme, symbolism, and other literary devices this short story is able to capture the essence of how human tendencies can infiltrate and destroy a relationship.
Throughout this narrative, it becomes apparent that each character is facing their own individual struggles. It is when these struggles intertwine that the major conflicts
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Ann is always aware that time is passing, it is always going either too fast or too slow, which speaks to the universally experienced battle that humans have with time. She constantly seems to be waiting for the next spring to come so she can be free of the dismal, demoralizing, and aging winter. However, through simile, she also acknowledges that, “this spring – next spring – all the springs and summers still to come [meant that] they [were growing] old, while their bodies warped, while their minds kept shriveling dry and empty like their lives” (4). Both John and Ann are focused too much on their future plans that they can’t seem to build a secure marriage in the present. John spends his hours working to pay off their mortgage in order to buy his wife nice things. She sees herself as young now, but believes that by the time nice things come to her, she will be too old to enjoy them. Ann is trapped by the idea of time and so she acts in attempt to control it. She paints the woodwork in her house to keep her hands occupied and distract her from the brutal isolation she is experiencing. This also helps to keep the house looking new and fresh and in turn keeps her feeling young. She uses sleeping with Steven to help her live in the present which, again, also helps her to feel youthful and free. The fact that both of these characters seem to neglect the present is truly tragic because when John dies, it is realized that the future is never certain and can slip away in an instant. It is living in the present that grants people the ability to find joy. It becomes apparent from early on in the story that the character’s lives are defined by traditional gender roles. There is a constant tension between what is expected of men and women. Ann feels that as a woman she should be grateful for having a kind husband that wants to provide for her. It is because of this
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