The Painted Veil: a Contextual Analysis

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The Painted Veil:
A Contextual Analysis
ASL ~ Literature in English
Introduction
• A veil: to cover something up
• From a sonnet by poet Percy Bysshe Shelley: “Lift not the painted veil which those who live call life.” • Lifting of illusions and revealing truths

“We often fall in love with the illusions we have of about a person rather than who they really are. That is the ‘painted veil’ that is in front of our vision of the truth and when those illusions get torn away it can be process of disenchantment and pain.”

Edward Norton
• Romantic tales set in 1920s China
• Cholera epidemic + civil uprising against British colonization (tensions running high) • Forgoing sugar for pungent truths
• Steeped in the painful emotions of betrayal, resentment and the realities of marrying for the wrong reasons • A visually stunning and emotionally charged journey to the meat of the heart • Love is not always gentle or syrupy, yet can bloom unexpectedly even when scorned and surrounded by death • Exploring the devastating emotional consequences of infidelity, and the difficult, if not impossible, road to redemption and reconciliation

Characters
• Walter Fane
• An English middle-class, lackluster bacteriologist • Lives and works in Shanghai
• Quick proposal to Kitty Garstin
• Compassionate and altruistic: risking his own health to care for the sick and dying • Intelligent, with a cold passive-aggressive nature • Determined to punish his wife when learning of Kitty’s affair • Giving her two choices:

• Joining him on a treacherous journey to a remote, cholera-infested village where he has volunteered his expertise • Endure the disgrace and embarrassment of a public divorce (What does it tell about people’s attitude towards marriage at that time?) • As revenge for his...
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