The Painted Door

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The Painted Door Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Sinclair Ross's The Painted Door. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Sinclair Ross

Sinclair Ross was born and raised in a rural part of Canada’s Saskatchewan province. His parents divorced when he was young, and he lived with his mother on a series of farms until he left school at the age of sixteen and took a job at a bank. Ross continued to work for the same bank for over 30 years, moving to the larger city of Winnipeg and eventually cosmopolitan Montreal. He also spent four years stationed in London during World War II. His most famous work is the novel As For Me and My House, originally published in 1941. Although that piece did not initially receive much public attention, Ross had won several awards for his earlier short stories and by the mid-1950s was widely recognized as a significant writer of Canadian fiction. His writing is known for its nuanced, powerful portrayals of the reality of life in small Canadian towns. Ross suffered from Parkinson’s disease and died in Vancouver, Canada at the age of 88.
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Historical Context of The Painted Door

The Great Depression began in the United States in 1929, when a huge stock market crash threw the global economy into chaos, and continued through the 19030s. Canada suffered severely during this period, with extremely high rates of unemployment. Farmers like John and Ann struggled due to the drop in price of the crops they depended on for survival. “The Painted Door” was published just after the worst of the Depression had passed, at a time when the people of rural Canada continued to struggle but could begin to dream of a better future. John’s focus on saving money would not have been unusual for someone in his position, having only recently emerged from a period of extreme, widespread economic hardship.

Other Books Related to The Painted Door

This story is an example of Canadian “Prairie fiction.” This genre of writing appeared in the early twentieth century, and was characterized by realistic, highly observant and unsentimental portrayals of life in the farming communities of the Canadian prairies. Frederick Philip Grove’s Fruits of the Earth and W. O. Mitchell’s Who Has Seen the Wind are influential examples of this genre, as are Sinclair Ross’s novels As For Me and My House and Sawbones Memorial. John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath is a very famous example of Prairie fiction from the United States, as are many of Willa Cather’s books, including O Pioneers! and My Antonia.
Key Facts about The Painted Door
  • Full Title: The Painted Door
  • When Written: 1939
  • Where Written: Saskatchewan, Canada.
  • When Published: 1939
  • Literary Period: Modern Canadian Literature
  • Genre: Literary Fiction – Short Story
  • Setting: Saskatchewan, Canada
  • Climax: Ann’s infidelity
  • Antagonist: Steven
  • Point of View: Third-person, focalized through Ann

Extra Credit for The Painted Door

Movie short. “The Painted Door” was adapted into an Oscar-nominated short film in 1984.

In the closet. Ross is one of Canada’s most famous gay authors, although he kept his sexuality hidden for most of his life.