In the National Gallery
In this assignment I will begin by giving a short summary of the short story “In the National Gallery” by Doris Lessing (2007), and hereafter I will analyze and interpret the short story. In addition to that I will put my interpretation into perspective and discuss the extract from The Great Gatsby by F. S. Fitzgerald and the extract from Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurtson. Besides looking at the two different texts I will try to compare the text into the society I know of and spice it up with a few of my own personal opinions. The short story In the National Gallery, which is written by Doris Lessing (2007), is about the narrator’s visit to the National Gallery in a free hour. The narrator finds a painting called the Chestnut horse by Stubbs (British painter), and he/she wants to sit quietly and look at it for one hour. The narrator gets distracted when an elderly man sits besides the narrator. The elderly man appears to be an expert on Stubbs, so the narrator tries to hear his words of wisdom. The younger man whom he was telling his wise words to comes with an outburst and leaves the room, which makes the elderly man focusing on the group of French schoolgirls, who came into the room. One of the girls draws the elderly mans attention and he shortly after says to the narrator “She’s like a girl I was in love with once”(page 2 I. 71). Inappropriately he now begins telling the narrator about his sad love story he went through as a 12-year old. The little French girl falls asleep besides him and when she awakes, and the group leaves the room, he follows her. The memories seem to mess up the Stubbs’ expert’s minds as he stalks the young French girl and almost chases after her. The narrator in this short story is told by a 1st person-narrator and this person are not taking any action in the story, he or she is very observant and passive, which is very interesting. The only action the narrator ever takes is when he/she questions the elderly man about his old love. The affect the narrator gives is describing the scenarios between the other characters. He or she sees also gives several personal opinions. When a 1st person-narrator is in a story it is very important to understand that the information we get is very subjective, so it is unknown if this is the actual truth. The information are being giving by a person, who sees this with his/hers own eyes and puts the information into his/hers own perspective.
Stubbs’ expert and asks him about his first love. Otherwise, the narrator affects the tale with his/her own personal opinions and value-laden descriptions. For instance, at the very end of the text: “Slowly, he followed. Oh no, I was thinking, he simply must not try and talk to her, attract her attention, impose himself. If he did, it was easy to imagine raised voices, ugly laughter, even an “incident” that could reach the newspapers.” (Page 4, line 151-153) When we deal with a 1st person narrative, it is important to notice the fact that the truth is subjective and that it is a subjective version of the incident in the National Gallery.
During the short story we are introduced to four persons who are of importance to the plot. The first person is the narrator who seems to enjoy spending some of his/her time in the National Gallery. The narrator wishes to know something about art: “How much I would have liked to know as much as he did, and to share this passion for Stubbs and the horse, (…)”. We do not hear that much about the narrator but he/she is neither that important for the plot. On the other hand a very important character is the expert on Stubbs. He is described as: “about sixty years old, well dressed, a well-presented man absorbed in his contemplation.” (Page 1, line 9-10) The narrator calls him “the expert on Stubbs” (Page 4, line 123) and he seems to be a connoisseur of painting and especially of Stubbs. He possesses some kind of mentor role towards the younger man. He seems to have deep feelings for his childhood love and this love seems to seize him when he sees the French girl.
As I mentioned before, this short story is called In the National Gallery. It seems a little too obvious that the title is inspired only by the location of the short story. I believe there is some kind of symbolism in the location, because the location doesn’t play such a big part in this short story’s love story. When you are leaving one room and entering another in a gallery, it is not just a change of style, it is also a kind of a travel through time. I believe the old man experiences a travel through time, when he sees the French girl, who reminds him of the unhappy love love he experienced, when he was a child.
Memories consist of innumerable pictures. These pictures are preserved in our hearts and minds and from time to time we can all enjoy memories from our past. These memories often remain untouched by time and for some people these memories from the past will affect them and haunt them for the rest of their lives. A wise man once said: “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”