31 pages 1 hour read

Edgar Allan Poe

The Oval Portrait

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1842

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Important Quotes

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“The chateau into which my valet had ventured to make forcible entrance, rather than permit me, in my desperately wounded condition, to pass a night in the open air, was one of those piles of commingled gloom and grandeur which have so long frowned among the Appenines, not less in fact than in the fancy of Mrs. Radcliffe.”

(Page 481)

The story’s opening line establishes its Gothic setting and atmosphere with diction such as “gloom” and “frowned” and with its allusion to the works of Ann Radcliffe, the author of such Gothic romances as The Mysteries of Udolpho. From the outset, the reader expects something dark and unsettling to happen in the chateau, which heightens the story’s tension.

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“To all appearance it had been temporarily and very lately abandoned.”

(Page 481)

Rather than simply state that no one is at home, the narrator describes the chateau as “abandoned.” This diction contributes additional meaning—there is something in the atmosphere of the chateau that suggests its former occupant fled from it. The syntax, which offers high-visibility positions at the sentence’s beginning and end to the ideas of “appearance” and abandonment, highlights that the emptiness of the chateau is not certain, contributing to the mysteriousness of the setting. This sense of mystery is heighted through the detail that the abandonment seems to have happened “very lately.”