31 pages 1 hour read

Edgar Allan Poe

The Oval Portrait

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1842

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Character Analysis

The Frame Narrator

Given that the unnamed frame narrator is traveling in Italy unaccompanied by anyone other than a single servant, Pedro, whose occupation is given as “valet,” it is likely that the narrator is a middle- or upper-class adult man. From the narrator’s choice of words, like “commingled,” “multiform,” and “incipient,” it is clear that the narrator is educated (481). Little can be deduced about his background aside from this. At the outset of the story, all the narrative conveys about this man is that he is wounded and hovering on the edge of delirium. His condition may explain why it is his servant, rather than the narrator himself, who makes the decision to break into the chateau to find shelter. That Pedro would make this choice indicates that the frame narrator is the kind of man who inspires loyalty in those around him.

Once they are inside the chateau, the narrator appears to be decisive enough, as he chooses a room and instructs Pedro on how to arrange the circumstances to his liking. The narrator’s confident, educated, and formal voice backs up this impression of a self-assured man of at least moderately high status.