Mariah Snih

Dee Horne

English 205

6 February 2017


Quiet of Conscience

“The Painted Door”

Sinclair Ross

Reviewed by: Mariah Snih


Quiet of Conscience

“The Painted Door” by Sinclair Ross is a carefully crafted story with a gradual build of tension and an immensely effective conclusion. The slow build of tension commences with Ann’s husband John leaving her for the day, with only the unfurling of a wretched winter storm to keep her company. While John is away, Ann occupies herself by painting the bedroom door; then her neighbour Steven arrives. Reeling with thoughts of her dulling life, “year after year … [going] on in the same little groove” (Ross 307), Ann chooses to quiet her conscience for “a moment of passion” (316). In the night, Ann dreams of John coming home to find Steven in his place, and in the morning, John is found in the field outside, frozen to death.

For the duration of the story the reader is put in a place of insecurity, unsure how the plot is going to continue: this is created by Ann’s unsteady thoughts, and the constant repetition of an assurance that John will not be home due to the storm. The repetition keeps the reader on edge, as it causes them to doubt the guarantee that John will not come home that night. In “The Painted Door”, Ross reveals his capability to engage the reader’s sense of trepidation, and his prowess for the production of surprise; both aspects that have a lasting impact on the reader. I wholly recommend “The Painted Door”, as the distinct build up of tension, with the shocking concluding line: “On [dead John’s] palm … was a smear of paint” (317), makes for a thrilling read.


Work Cited

Ross, Sinclair. “The Painted Door.” Short Fiction: An Anthology. 2nd Ed., edited by Levene, Mark, and Rosemary Sullivan, Oxford University Press, 2015, pp. 304-317.