In the National Gallery Love is like a horse. It can’t be controlled no matter how hard you try. It’s so strong, that it destroys all other feelings you might have in your body. But it’s also curious and pokes its nose into challenging and sometimes even dangerous things. It can be very distractive when you, for example, are working or talking with other people. You can always feel it in the back of your mind. In this short story we find ourselves at a museum. And usually when you’re at a museum the time passes with looking and watching.
Looking at dead artist’s names and their art, and watching dead painter’s names and their paintings. Because usually at a museum, art are all dusty and old, and made by artists long gone. But you don’t only go to a museum to look at some art. You can also go there to watch people looking at the art and see their different reactions and facial expression. The first person we meet in the story is the narrator, and she’s a first person narrator. She has the point of view so what happens at the museum is turned over in her mind before we hear about it.
Throughout the whole story she’s sitting at the bench, watching the Whistlejacket and the man’s absorption in the French girl. And there’s a good reason to call her an onlooker, because she’s just looking at the happening. The man, who is sitting next to the narrator, suddenly begins to talk with her about his past. And the conversation makes the man admitting something he didn’t want to reveal. He likes young girls even though he’s sixty, and especially the young French girl because she reminds him of a girl he used to date when he was young.
The French girl is the boss in the little group of the French girls, because she has a leader’s face and she appears to be a person with authority. Everybody at the museum is completely enthralled by the little French group and especially enthralled by the head of the French. Doris Lessing describes her like this: “One girl stood out. She was “so French” in her way of presenting herself, a package to be admired, with a pert little face which must have smiled a hundred times to be told that it was like Audrey Hepburn’s. ” (p. 3 – l. 41) The poem (text 3) by Robin Robertson and named Territorial fits very well with the French girl.
Already in the first line we know it’s about her: “She doesn’t know I’m watching her,” because she is very self-centred in the story. She doesn’t notice the man even when he stands right in front of her, because she is so obsessed with herself that she doesn’t notice others. The poem alludes to her young age and that she’s learning about the world and life. In the last sentence of the poem: “… she has been learning how to kill boys. ” she has turned from a girl who discovers the world and opening up new territories, into a woman of egocentrism.
Like a devil which seduces boys and then “kills” them, meaning that she gives them a broken heart by not loving them back. And that’s exactly how the French girl is like. Obviously, the theme in this story is love, because of the man’s love with the French girl and his love with the older girl from his past, when he was twelve. And we can be sure that the story is about love because of the horse, Whistlejacket, which the story is centred around. Through the ages the horse has always been a symbol of strength and love, and that’s why the horse is in this story in the first place, because it symbolises very strong love.
In the last lines of the story the atmosphere is much tenser and we’re nervous about what’s going to happen. The narrator is terrified if the man is going to talk to the French girl. Because if he did try to talk to the French girl, he would properly be embarrassed and attract unwanted attention. “If he did, it was easy to imagine raised voices, ugly laughter, even an “incident” that could reach the newspapers. ” (p. 5 – l. 152) When old men shows interest in young girls, it always seems absurd and disgusting, and people get the wrong impression.
According to the quote above, the man could end up in the newspapers with a paedophile history, and that’s not very comfortable. The very last sentence in the story, where the words wildness, unexpressed, raw and dangerous are used, make a reference to the horse at the painting which is all these things. At the painting by George Stubbs we see the red horse Whistlejacket which the plot is centred around. The colour of the horse is red, which is the colour of love. And a horse is wild and raw, like the atmosphere in the last lines, so the horse s the symbol of the story. B) Point of view in “In the National Gallery” The point of view in this short story is a first-person narrator, where all that’s going on in a certain story, is seen from the eyes or the mind of the narrator. It gives us a certain feeling of intimacy and we gain an insight of the narrator. As opposed to a third-person omniscient narrator, where the author has the view, a first-person narrator isn’t very reliable, because all the things that the narrator experience is turned over in the narrator’s head before it’s shared with the readers.
A third-person narrator gives the reader some kind of authority and stability while a first-person narrator only can give one point of view, which we experience in “In the National Gallery”. There we have no idea what the man and especially the French girl is thinking. The man talks a bit about his thoughts so in that way we get to know him, but the French girl is only seen through the eyes of the narrator. In this short story the narrator behaves like an onlooker, who only watches and absorbs all impressions and actions. We could call her the eyes of a television, which only shows us the scene with the man and the French girl.