The Villagers

We never meet Mary or the other villagers in the story but their characters are revealed through the narrative.

The villagers represent the negative, closed-minded attitudes that Crichton Smith often associates with small, rural communities. These communities seem to thrive on maintaining the status quo and a set of unspoken codes and values that must be adhered to.

Being different is frowned upon. Murdo is right to be concerned about how the rest of the village might react to his newly painted red door which he realises certainly singled him out.

All his life he has felt it necessary to be as like the other villagers as possible.

In Murdo, Crichton Smith emphasises the repression and lack of fulfilment in conforming to these rigid routines. As Murdo considers their reaction to the door he notes.

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It was true that the villagers when they woke would see it and perhaps even make fun of it, and would advise him to repaint it. They might not even want him in the village if he insisted on having a red door. Still they could all have red doors if they wanted to. Or they could hunt him out of the village.

In these lines we really understand the extent to which Murdo has been influenced by the small-mindedness of the villagers. In never being allowed to pursue his own dreams and ambitions, he has assimilated into the village. This has been at great personal cost.

Crichton Smith uses the village to reflect larger society, which can often conflict with the desires of the individual.

In the end, Murdo’s decision to leave the door red symbolises that he has found the impetus and strength to break with this suffocating society. He is ready to live a life where he can be himself.

On a wider level, Murdo represents the everyman, and the perpetual struggle that all of us face between conforming to society and finding an existence that is personally fulfilling.