The moving finger, Edith Wharton

After reading chapter 3 and 4 of the short-story, “The moving finger”, we were given a task.

[Here is the link to the task]

1. Make a summary of part 3 and Part 4

Chapter 3

This chapter starts with Grancy talking about his wife and his need for women, I quote “[…] I suppose: the need of a pair of eyes that should see with me, of a pulse that should keep time with mine.” He says that he used to be happy, that he used to enjoy life, he says that her woman, Mrs. Grancy lit his life “[…]she lit up the caverns and bridged the abysses!”. Then, he starts talking about the painting, how Claydon caught the beauty in her, and how he appreciated him for that. But after her death, that appreciation turned to ‘hate’. As a result, he asks him to repaint the painting so that it would ‘age’ with him and he agrees.

Chapter 4

This chapter commences with Mr. Grancy being very ill and that the painting is the only thing keeping him ‘alive’ and moving forward. In this part of the story, the painting is being kept at Claydon’s studio. Then, Claydon repaints the paint again, without asking, but in a strange way, in a way that represents Mr. Grancy’s dead. “She knows,” says Claydon, to explain the repaint. Meaning that “she”, painting, “knows” that Mr. Grancy is going to die

2. Why did Grancy have the portrait changed? Find a quote to prove your answer

This because, after his second wife’s death, he feels that the painting looks depressing, uncanny and weird. “[…]A look that seemed to say: ‘Don’t you see that I am lonely too?’ And all at once it came over me how she would have hated to be left behind!

3. What happens to Grancy and Claydon in the end? Quote

In the end of chapter 4, Mr. Grancy gets sick again, and later in chapter 5, he dies. Probably, this happened because of Claydon’s painting, of Mrs. Grancy ‘who’ was driving him crazy. Claydon, instead, was driven crazy by the end of the story. He was so manipulated by Mrs. Grancy’s memory in him, that he ended up so mad, that he ‘killed’ his friend and repaint the only remains of his wife, making her the beautiful image that was put in his mind when cheating. 

4. Explain the title

I think that the moving finger refers to different targets to point. For example, first, the finger would point to Mr. Grancy’s first wife, then the second, the painting, etc. This theory could be reinforced by all the changes of narrators, all the changings of targets.

Also, the title refers to how the ‘doer’ in this story is the second Mrs. Grancy. She manipulated Claydon and the Narrator to do what she wanted them to do.  She first dated the narrator and got married. Then, she cheated on him with Claydon. As a result, both of them felt ‘owners’ of her, I quote, “But now she belongs to me,”. These were Claydon’s words,  showing evidence of how mad they both turned because of Mrs. Grancy’s charm, so, that the narrator’s friend turned his back on him and cheated with his woman. And later, by manipulating the only remain of his wife, the painting, slowly ‘killed’ him. So, the ‘finger’ would be Mrs. Grancy ‘moves’ to manipulate her puppets.

5. Can we say Grancy had 3 wives? Why?

Yes, we can. The three wives would be the first Mrs. Grancy, whose death turned Grancy into a ‘grown up’, the second Mrs. Grancy, the one that was painted, who allowed him to “burst into a flower”, and the painting, who kept him living and moving forward through illness.

6. What is uncanny in the story?

In this story, the uncanny thing would be the painting. Uncanny is when something familiar to us, in this case, the painting, turns into something terrifying, weird and creepy, and, most of the times, alive.

Analysis of “The moving finger”

Narrator ⇢  An instrumental character/ he has a viewpoint of the love triangle, and he tries to give order to the chaos this love affair provokes


Mr. Grancy:  2 wives + the portrait= 3                                                                        ↳Possessive ⇢  Mrs. Grancy is rarely out of the house                                    |                                                    ↳Later, entrapped by a portrait                                |                               Claydon describes her as “the right frame for him”        |                                                                                                                        ↓                              |                                                                              Foreshadows the future painting      |                                                                                                                                                        ↳ Gradual decoy ⇢ wife-portrait-ghost-voice

Mrs. Grancy: Beautiful & young                                                                                       ↳ Committed adultery & she was “punished” with an early death                  after 3 years of marriage                                                                                           ↳ “Punished” by her husband who trapped her in a portrait!                          (OBJECTIFIED)                                                                                ↓                                                                                                                                      TOOK REVENGE                                                                                                                 /                               \                                                                                         Grancy died        Claydon went mad

Claydon: my masterpiece”                                                                                                     |                 ↳ exercising possesion                                                                                     ↳ visiting Mr. Grancy often just to see the painting                                         |                                                  (obsession)                                                                             ↳ Altered the portrait 3 times

MOTIF 3 ⇢ Holy trinity                                                                                                                                   |                                                                                                                                                  In this story “unholy”


  • Sin
  • Guilt
  • Madness
  • Remorse
  • Repentance
  • Adultery

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