The Red Door Iain Crichton Smith PUPIL NOTES Conformity What does it mean to conform? Conformity = a social influence that involves someone changing their behaviour or beliefs to fit in with a larger group (or society in general). Conformity
Advantages and disadvantages of conforming, or fitting in. ADVANTAGES You will be accepted more easily by others No rules will be broken If you want to blend in, you can (you wont be noticed) Society may generally be more peaceful and settled (on the surface) Everyone knows where they stand with each other DISADVANTAGES You will lose your individuality what makes you you You will not be able to express yourself properly You will be too dependent on others You will not think for yourself or follow your own dreams/goals Society would stay still people who dont conform can change things for the better
Social Norms A lot of conformity is created through peoples awareness of social norms, which are unwritten rules about how we behave in certain situations. Analysis Setting 1. Find evidence from paragraphs 1-6 of the story that tells us: where/when the story takes place Potential answers The story is set after Halloween and winter is arriving Murdo went out into the cold air (P.1); the winter sun (P.4). Events take place in a small village in the Highlands of Scotland the name Murdo; porridge, scones and tea
(P.1); He read the Daily Record (P.5). The village is on the coast of Scotland the sea was like a strange volume (P.6) Analysis Setting 1. Find evidence from paragraphs 1-6 of the story that tells us: what life in this place is like. Life here is quite unremarkable, ordinary, bland and safe darned his own socks cultivated his own small piece of ground he slept by the fire he would converse with his neighbour while hammering a post into the ground even play draughts with one of them The residents of the village seem to live in a deliberately limited, impoverished way his frugally prepared breakfast; the damp patch on the wall. Most importantly, the village seems to be very restrictive and averse to new ideas no one in his experience had had a red door in the village before
Analysis Setting 2. Explain how Murdos red door contrasts with the village around it in paragraphs 11 and 12. Potential answers it shone with a deep inward shine it looked like a picture against the rest of the house which was old and intertwined with all sorts of rusty pipes like snakes (P.11) Murdos house is described very negatively using a simile to make it seem unwelcoming, whereas the door is attractive and remarkable. it certainly stood out against the drab landscape as if it were a work of art Again, the door seems to be at odds with its surroundings, which are incredibly bland/uniform; it looks like a masterpiece in comparison.
Analysis Setting 3. How is the setting described in the final paragraph of the story, and what is the change here? Potential answers sparkling frost virginal new diamonds glittered around him This is an extremely positive description of Murdos surroundings, highlighting that due to the storys events the village now seems exciting and fresh to him (sparkling, virginal, new) and it is a stark contrast to the bland, unremarkable descriptions from earlier in the story. It signals change. Analysis Character 4. Look at paragraphs 2 and 5. What are we told about Murdo and his
status/standing in the village at the start of the story? Potential answers He is a bachelor (unmarried), and had never brought himself to propose marriage to anyone (P.2) this immediately marks him out as quite shy and solitary. The fact that He lived by himself (P.2) is therefore unsurprising. Analysis Character Potential answers He is well liked in the village: he didnt offend anyone by gossiping and maintained a long silence unless he had something of importance to say (P.2). This suggests that he is wary of how other people view him and wants to conform. He is liked for the wrong reasons and lives to please others. His desire for acceptance is further revealed in Phe felt it
necessary that he should be as like the other villagers as possible. This has led him to have never in his life done anything unusual (P.5), which may indicate that he is repressed (he cannot fulfil his deepest thoughts/desires). Analysis Character 5. In paragraph 6, how is it clear that Murdo is a little unsatisfied and does have hidden depths? Potential answers there were times when he felt that there was more to life than that This reveals Murdos inner need to follow his own path and be an individual, which is being repressed by the village and its unwritten code. on summer nights when the harvest moon was in the sky the earth was painted with an unearthly glow and the seas was like a strange volume which none could read except by means of the imagination
The language of his thoughts is quite poetic, almost romantic, which leads us to believe that Murdo is secretly quite a passionate and creative person. Analysis Character What impressions are we given of Murdos childhood in and how does this explain his behaviour in the village? Potential answers he had been a very serious child who found it difficult to talk to children He was lacking in confidence. had lisped excitedly, Thee, an aeroplane which had been repeated as a sign of his foolishness He was mocked/bullied by the other children due to delayed speech development. He had never taken part in the school sports because he was rather
clumsy: and his accomplishments in mathematics were meagre He was poor academically and very awkward. This may fuel his desire to conform and be accepted as he never was as a child. Ian Crichton Smith Analysis Character 7. How does paragraph 9 make clear why Murdo is a bachelor? Potential answers He did have a short relationship with a spinster (unmarried woman) in the village, but ceased to visit her when once she had provided him with cocoa and salt herring a diet so ferocious that even he could not look forward to its repetition with tranquillity. The womans choice of meal is representative of her unpleasantness and joylessness, which Murdo did not enjoy. This points to a lack of eligible woman in the village, another
aspect of the place that means it is unfulfilling for Murdo. Analysis Character 8. The TURNING POINT of the story, for Murdos character, occurs in paragraph 15. Explain why. Potential answers He has an epiphany, or realisation, about himself and the village: I have always sought to hide among other people. I agree to what anybody tells me to do I have never been myself. He recognises his own shortcomings and that the village has held back his individuality and expression. Analysis Character 9. After Murdos realisation, how do his thoughts develop over the
course of paragraphs 18, 19 and 25? Potential answers But really was he happy?... When he considered it carefully he knew that he wasnt (P.18) He is finally admitting to himself the unfulfilling nature of his life. he didnt like wellingtons and a fishermans jersey. He hated them in fact: they had no elegance (P.19) The door has inspired him to express his own feelings and not just be what other people expect him to be. He already has more individuality and freedom of thought than before. Analysis Character Potential answers It had never occurred to him that he could leave the village, especially at his age (P.25) Another, potentially bigger, epiphany happens here for Murdo:
the restrictiveness and influence of conformity within the village is so extreme that he has only just realised that leaving is an option. If he were a true villager would he like the door so much? He is questioning his identity, and realising that he doesnt belong: if the red door inspires him but is not accepted, then the village is not somewhere he wants to consider himself part of. Analysis Character 10. How do paragraph 26 and the final sentence of the story show the massive change in Murdos character? Potential answers He felt a certain childlikeness stirring within him as if he were on Christmas day This simile makes clear that Murdo feels energised and invigorated by his epiphany. The red door has uplifted and transformed him into an excited childlike state with lots of unexplored potential within him.
He knocked on the door A satisfying, positive and uplifting final sentence. He is finally free from the shackles of conformity, symbolised by his willingness to knock on Marys door. Analysis Character of Mary (new colour ) 11. Now consider the character of Mary. In paragraph 10, what are the main reasons she seems to be considered odd by the villagers? Is there a clue that suggests she might be responsible for Murdos door? another spinster in the village who wrote poetry she neglected herself in the service of books and poetry She is creative and therefore does not fit in as the other villagers are repressed and bound by routine and unwritten rules societal norms (what is accepted and what is not) of village life (orthodoxy of village life) The fact that she is a spinster (unmarried through choice) and lived by herself
- suggests that she is isolated, but unlike Murdo has chosen to isolate herself, probably as she realises the villages attitudes and routines do not reflect her own she is enlightened and open-minded (contrasting with their close-mindedness). was seen pottering vaguely about during the day and sometimes during the night as well As she potters, a purposeless movement, she is in contrast to the rest of the villagers who seem to always have a set routine and order to their day. Mary being around at night as well emphasises her nonconformist ways and attitude. She dressed in red clothes The fact that her clothing is the same colour as Murdos door, a colour rarely seen in the village, connects her to the door. Analysis Character 12. Murdo is inspired to change by the door and, therefore, by Mary. What things from paragraphs 20 and 21 does he find inspiring about her? Potential answers Mary had elegance Taken in contrast to the previous sentence, where Murdo said his
wellingtons and jersey had no elegance, we can tell that Murdo sees Mary as representative of everything the village is not. This merely emphasises how her non-conformity is a positive, freeing thing. she made no concessions to anybody her world was her own, depending on none He admires her individuality and her independence, especially in the midst of the villages restrictiveness. Analysis Character Potential answers fond of children and used to make up masks for them at Halloween she was romantic (P.21) She is creative and passionate and Murdo evidently believes she would help him fulfil his hidden desires. That he points out she is fond of children also shows he sees her as a potential partner/mother for his own kids. she had sudden bursts of rage too which might be the sign of a
spirit without servility. One couldnt marry a clod (P.21) She does not live to please others and will get angry if she feels it was justified. Murdo doesnt want to marry a clod (a stupid person) and here he is obviously viewing her as marriage material for himself. He realises he is attracted to her. Anger or rage is also often associated with the colour red, another link to Mary/the door. Analysis Character 13. Mary does not gossip and is well-read/educated, yet these things lead to her being viewed negatively by the villagers. What does this tell us about their point of view? Potential answers Not gossiping and being educated would normally be viewed within society as POSITIVE qualities. The fact that the villagers view these negatively is ironic, and
only emphasises their insular (narrow-minded, ignorant or uninterested in others points of view) ways. Analysis Symbolism Symbolism = when a feeling, idea, emotion, person, etc. is represented by something else (a physical thing that can be seen). Examples Analysis Symbolism What about colours? Discussing with the person sitting next to you, write down all the things you can think of that are represented by the colour RED. Love, passion, anger, danger, blood, fire, heat, embarrassment, hatred, romanticism, murder
Analysis Symbolism 14. Draw the following table in your jotter. SYMBOL FROM STORY The red door The children Halloween masks Mary The colour blue The village/villagers The cockerel
WHAT IT SYMBOLISES QUOTATIONS ANALYSIS Analysis Symbolism Now match the following symbols up with what they represent and find quotations to show each one. (first 2 columns) Symbols The red door (P.11, 12, 16, 19, 28) The cockerel (P.14)
The children (P.3) Halloween masks (P.3, 25) Mary (P.10, 20, 21) The colour blue (P.12, 14) The village/villagers (P.4, 13, 14, 24) Symbolic of? Analysis Symbolism 14. Draw the following table and complete. SYMBOL FROM STORY The red door(P.11, 12, 16, 19, 28) WHAT IT SYMBOLISES
Individuality/freedom The children(P.3) Youth/potential/Murdo himself Halloween masks(P.3, 25) Murdo/pretending to be something youre not Mary(P.10, 20, 21) Passion/creativity/nonconformity
The colour blue(P.12, 14) Blandness/restrictiveness The village/villagers(P. 4, 13, 14, 24) Closed-mindedness/ societys influence The cockerel (P.14) Freedom and instinct
QUOTATIONS ANALYSIS Analysis Symbolism Potential answers The red door = individuality/freedom it seemed to express something in himself which had been deeply buried for years (P.12) The door seemed to have its own courage (P.16) It seemed to be saying what it was, not what it thought others expected it to say (P.19) It shone bravely It said, Please let me live my own life (P.28) The door represents everything that Murdo wants to be brave, free, unconcerned by what others are like, unique, non-conformist It and
Mary are linked, since it was she who painted the door and she shares many of its qualities (even wearing red). The door spurs Murdo on to seek his own path and leads him to Marys door. Analysis Symbolism Potential answers The children = youth/potential/Murdo himself the mask of senility on one face, at the mask of a wildcat on another and at the mask of a spaceman on the face of a little boy whom he could swear he knew (P.3) Murdo is surprised to see the variety of masks the children have chosen to wear, symbolic of the fact that children have potential and can choose to be anything they want to be. The child with the mask of senility (old-looking mask) may represent Murdo himself as well as the boy dressed as a spaceman. The fact that he could swear he knew him shows he recognises that at one point he had this same
potential but has led an unfulfilled life (putting on a mask of senility when really he has not experienced anything yet). Analysis Symbolism Potential answers Halloween masks = Murdo/pretending to be something youre not Perhaps his belonging had been like the Halloween mask (P.25) At the end of the story Murdo realises that he has been wearing a mask in the village to protect him from being singled out, just like when children wear costumes and masks at Halloween to fit in with everyone else. This leads him to come to the conclusion that he is not a true villager and has been hiding behind his mask, pretending to fit in when he doesnt, for too long.
Analysis Symbolism Potential answers Mary = passion/creativity/non-conformity She dressed in red clothes and was considered slightly odd by the villagers (P.10) Mary had elegance the villagers didnt understand her she made no concessions to anybody (P.20) she was romantic she had sudden bursts of rage (P.21) Mary herself is symbolised by the door and the colour red, which are all linked with creativity, passion and individuality in the story. She also, in a way, represents the unfulfilled desires in Murdo as she shows all of these qualities on the outside whereas Murdo has repressed them. Murdo knocking on her door at the end of the story symbolises his freedom, through her influence, from the shackles of conformity and the pressures of village life.
Analysis Symbolism Potential answers The colour blue = blandness/restrictiveness as for blue it wouldnt have suited the door at all. Blue would have been too blatant in a cold way. And anyway the sky was already blue. (P.12) Blue smoke was ascending from chimneys (P.14) Blue is linked with village life, as even the smoke rising from chimneys is described as blue the colour has connotations of coldness, sterility and even sadness/depression. To Murdo, the village seems cold and unwelcoming in contrast to the fiery passion of Mary and the door; the sky was already blue highlights this as it suggests that blue is ordinary, or run-of-the-mill. Murdo wants to be red as opposed to plain old blue.
Analysis Symbolism Potential answers The village/villagers = closed-mindedness/societys influence no one in his experience had had a red door in the village before It certainly singled him out (P.4) What would the neighbours say about it Never in the history of the village had there been a red door before (P.13) the red door would gather attention to itself (P.14) the villagers when they woke would see it and perhaps make fun of it, and would advise him to repaint it. They might not even want him in the village (P.24) Murdos fear of rejection due to not conforming is represented by his worries about the villages reaction to his red door. Any time the village is mentioned their stifling, closed-minded influence on him becomes clear. The village is actually used by Crichton Smith to reflect society as a whole, which often has ideas that conflict with that of the individual it is a microcosm (miniature
version) of society. Analysis Symbolism Potential answers The cockerel = freedom and instinct a cock was crowing, belligerent and heraldic, its red claws sunk into the earth, its metallic breast oriental and strange (P.14) The description of the cockerel carefully likens it to Mary rather than Murdo or the other villagers: it acts on instinct, crowing whenever it feels it should rather than when people expect it to. Its red claws are pointed out which links it with the symbolism of the colour red again Murdo looks at it with envy at this point as he has not yet begun to act on instinct himself.
Analysis Themes 15. Copy and complete the following information using the words below. One of the main themes in the story is ______________ versus __________________. __________ wants to be an individual but feels ______________ and stifled by the restrictiveness of village life and the attitudes of the ________________ around him. Through a ________________ woman called ___________ he is able to break away from the villages ___________________. By _______________ his door red during the night she sparks a ________________ in him that his life has been _________________ as he has spent it all in sacrifice to conformity by leaving all his ___________ and ambitions behind to live the way others expect him to. By the end of the story he has become a ________________ living for himself alone. unfulfilled conformity Mary
individuality passionate restrictiveness villagers desires Analysis Themes 15. Copy and complete the following information using the words below. One of the main themes in the story is conformity versus individuality. Murdo wants to be an individual but feels controlled and stifled by the restrictiveness of village life and the attitudes of the villagers around him. Through a
passionate woman called Mary he is able to break away from the villages restrictivness . By painting his door red during the night she sparks a realisation in him that his life has been unfulfilled as he has spent it all in sacrifice to conformity b y leaving his desires and ambitions behind to live the way others expect him to. By the end of the story he has become a non-conformist living for himself alone. Analysis Themes 15. Copy and complete the following information using the words below. The other main theme in the story is _______________________. Iain Crichton Smith is attempting to convey a message about ____________ in general using the behaviour and attitudes of the _________________ towards Murdo. In this way, the village is a microcosm of society (a ___________ version). This reflects the way most people ______________ to what society expects of them without even realising it, unless something
(like the ______ ________ or Mary) forces them to confront their true ____________ and beliefs. The writer believes that the _____________ of fitting in with society often conflict with the desires of the ______________ as we are too aware of the closed-mindedness of others to follow our own _________. smaller path closed-mindedness pressures individual villagers conform red door
attitudes society Analysis Themes 15. Copy and complete the following information using the words below. The other main theme in the story is closed-mindedness . Iain Crichton Smith is attempting to convey a message about society in general using the behaviour and attitudes of the villagers towards Murdo. In this way, the village is a microcosm of society (a smaller version). This reflects the way most people conform to what society expects of them without even realising it, unless something (like the red door or Mary) forces them to confront their true attitudes and beliefs. The writer believes that the pressures of fitting in with society
often conflict with the desires of the individual as we are too aware of the closed-mindedness of others to follow our own path . Analysis Structure Copy this: Opening (Key Incident) Murdo leaves his house on what seems like a normal day to find his door has been painted red. Turning Point Having thought about the red door, Mary and his place in the village, Murdo realises that he doesnt belong and wants to be different. Climax(Ending) Murdo knocks on Marys door, having decided to begin a new, free chapter of his life.
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