The Portrait Literary Elements

The Portrait Literary Elements


A short story

Setting and Context

The date of actions is unknown, but the action takes place in Russia, Kolomna city.

Narrator and Point of View

The story is recounted by a third person. It consists of two parts. The first part is about the young painter Chartkov and the strange portrait with the old man. The second part informs the appearance of the portrait and the further life of old painter and his son.

Tone and Mood

The reading of this short story keeps readers always in suspense and concernment. The mood is mystical and mysterious.

Protagonist and Antagonist

The main protagonist is the old painter, who painted this portrait. The main antagonist is the portrait.

Major Conflict

The major conflict is between the old man on the portrait, who is Devil and people, who are always under Devil’s influences. Also there is a conflict between good and evil.


Actually, the climax happens when old painter decides to burn the portrait. It is a struggle between good and evil.


The appearance of the devil affirms that Chartkov will have difficulties in life in future.




When the son of the old painter arrives to the Academy of Arts, he visits the Gallery. There are many pictures of the most famous painters and artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Tiziano Vecellio, Raffaello Santi and Correggio.


The author’s descriptions of people “whose garments, faces, hair, eyes, have a sort of ashy surface, like a day when there is in the sky neither cloud nor sun”, and of a shop, which is a “dully” place produces grey, sad and even somehow sinister images. Nothing bright and happy can be seen, and no wonder that such a place the devil found as a source for his ominous deeds.


In this story the paradox happens, when the old man climbs out of the portrait.


Two parts of the story is indicated by parallelism. Both parts start in the store, and reveal somehow similar stories, though they differ much in events, the essence of the plot is the same

Metonymy and Synecdoche



The portrait is often personified in the text. It lives its own life. It often appears or goes out of sight. It slips off the tablecloth, when Chartkov tries to hide it. Also it gives him a huge bag with money. And the awful thing, which it can do is taking the life away.

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