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In the National Gallery

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    A. Write an essay (700-900 words) in which you analyse and interpret Doris Lessing’s short story “In the National Gallery”. To put interpretation into perspective, your essay must include a discussion of at least two of the other items listed below. One of these must be a text. In The National gallery is the title of this short story, and it’s really no mystery why. Even though the story never actually tells us where the story is happening, we get many indications, besides the name of the story, which is supposed to tell us that the story is happening in the National Gallery.

    It fits the story well, by giving us information, why couldn’t read directly in the text. The story is concentrated around an old man, who has is being reminded about an old flirt he had once, throughout the actions of the story. Without his actions in the story, there wouldn’t be much of a story to tell, and he is the one bringing the perspective of the things happening. The conflict of the story is much hidden. There’s no direct conflict between two different opinions, but there is conflicts in the form of the age problem. When he was 12, he wasn’t nearly enough for the girl.

    Neither is he as a 60 year old. There’s another conflict in the emotions. A 12 year olds’ emotions aren’t as fully developed as the emotions of a 16 year old, but the emotions of a 60 year old is more developed than a 16 year olds’. Since the conflict in the story is not direct, there’s no resolving it either. The old man only chose to talk about his feelings, not to do anything about them. Apparently the story ends in nowhere as the old man doesn’t confront his past, and therefore does not make the conflict direct. In the National Gallery is with a first-person narrator.

    The narrator is throughout the story anonymous by name, gender or age, as the person does not reveal itself nor is it important to the actual story. That does not mean that the narrator becomes unimportant in anyway. Though the narrator isn’t part of the actions taking place here, Doris Lessing makes it presence felt as he is the eyes and ears of the reader. The point of view and the judgment of the other characters are being performed by the narrator, who, through his comments and beliefs, forms the reader’s understanding of the story.

    The sixteen years old French girl is also playing a major role in the story but she is only being watched. The whole story takes part in the National Gallery of London, as all the paintings in the gallery have been painted by British artists, and the title indicates it as said before. As to when this story happened, is very inconclusive. We don’t know the time of the day, of the year, even of the decade. But through the information given in the text we can conclude that it’s in the newer age as Orson Welles has been performing. All we know else is that this story is told over a maximum of an hour.

    The beginning is clearly setting up for something decisive to happen the moment after. The narrator of the story is in the National Gallery of London. He or she has a whole free hour left to spend there, but only study one painting. It is a painting he knows, as he states “It should be already known to me” (page 2 lines 3-4). So he only studies this one painting, because of the obvious feeling of security he/she gets from it. An older man joins the narrator on his bench. This man only later becomes the main character of the text. Shortly after arrives another man, who is much younger than the first one.

    As the old man fails to entertain his younger company with his knowledge about Stubbs in general, he is rejected and left all by himself. This is the so called initial incident. The climax of the story is when the young French girl, who’ve been sleeping on the bench whilst the narrator and the main character talks about a similar girl, wakes up. This is the climax, because it’s here that the story begins to reveal the equality between the young French girl and the old man’s old crush, and we can begin drawing lines between the old dusty memory and what’s happening right now.

    We can draw lines between his old flame, and the new situation happening now. In the memory he tells about how he was rejected and ignored by the girl. So he did in the situation after she woke up again. The language is low-keyed. It resembles spoken language among other things because the text is marked by dialogue. There are used simple words, but there are some words which differ from the degree of difficulty compared to rest of the text. E. g. on line 48 where the word “vivacious” is used but what’s funny here is that the word is described by a synonym in the same sentence, a word later (so lively).

    The narrator is making use of similes E. g. on l. 122 ”for elation rises in them like bubbles in liquid. ” In this example the narrator is drawing a comparison between liquid and girls. There are many opposites in the story, e. g. the sexual masculinity in the symbol of the strong horses against the cute small kittens in form of the girls. Perhaps it’s exactly the painting of George Stubbs called ‘Whistlejacket’, that stood as the symbol for the man, and was in the gallery. No matter what, it does symbolize the exact same things.

    Our main character, the old man, can be found in “Their eyes were watching God”, as the women who “forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget”. This meaning that the old man forgets his age and everything when he is being reminded about this young girl who looks like the crush he had when he was a child. B. In a short essay (200-300 words) explain how Doris Lessing uses point of view in the short story “In the National Gallery” The story has a first person narrative in the story.

    In the story the narrator is not important for the actions of the story, and is not the main character. The first-person narrative is always directly involved in the story. By using a first-person narrative the story is more effective in getting the reader involved into the actions. The American Poets and critics Kennedy and Gioia claim that a first-person narrator often suggests a certain bias, especially when the narrator describes events in which he or she played a part, this I do not believe is the case in our story. The narrator remains loyal to what he sees and what he experiences.

    The narrator is still subjective, but the person is still able to build up a certain reliability around himself. This is important to making us believe in what he says. The text can be split into three parts. The first part, where the narrator is describing what he is going to do and why he is doing it. Then there’s the second part where the narrator is informing about the conversation between the two men next to him, and his own conversation with the old man. The third part is when he describes the action the elder man takes in order to come closer to the girl.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    In the National Gallery. (2017, Mar 15). Retrieved from

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