Depression-Era Meals: Sinclair Ross’ “The Painted Door”

“The Painted Door” by Sinclair Ross is a short story that focuses on the stressful lives of farmers during the 1930s when the Great Depression was at its peak. Living in isolation, John and his wife Ann have trouble communicating with one another, eventually leading to Ann cheating on her husband with their neighbour, Steven. Tension and miscommunication are apparent as Ann desperately tries to explain to her husband why she needs him to stay with her rather than leave to check on his father during the blizzard. However, John is so preoccupied that he does not really understand Ann’s desperation. “Plenty to eat… what more could a woman ask for?” (Ross 112). Tragically, by the story’s end, he will come to understand what more a woman might want and need.

Although food is not a major topic in this short story, it still plays a role in demonstrating the isolation and misery of farmers and their wives during the Great Depression. Ann’s main concern is her feeling of isolation, even during mealtime, the only time of the day that she and John sit together: “When he sat down to a meal he hurried his food and pushed his chair away again, from habit, from sheer work-instinct…” (118). Food is a necessity. Farmers work so hard to produce it, they risk sustaining their wives physically but not emotionally.

Ross, Sinclair. “The Painted Door.” The Lamp at Noon and Other Stories. 1968. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Ltd., 2010. 111-135. Print.

Written By: Sara Hassoun

Sara Hassoun is majoring in English at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Following the completion of her B.A., Hassoun plans to become a teacher and looks forward to teaching students  to be critical thinkers and seeing the applications of literature in their daily lives.

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