Throughout history, the number three has emerged and reemerged with significance in various myths and religions.
To begin, in Greek mythology the number three is represented by the three fates or Moirai: Klotho, Lachesis, and Atropos.
Tracing the use of the number three through these belief systems shows that various cultures have used the number to outline mortal life and the universe beyond simple coincidence.
Condensing existence into a manageable and straightforward representation, the number three emerges as an adaptable representation for understanding existence.
Although, if this passage is meant as a metaphor for the curious presence of the number three and the novels larger meaning, it seems that comparing the novel to a “marvelous painting” would be a self-aggrandizing statement on the part of the author.
Initially, this self-aggrandizing may seem an unlikely arrogance on behalf of the author and, perhaps, dismiss the probability that the statement is operating as a metaphor.
(…) Yet was there a sort of indefinite, half-attained, unimaginable sublimity about it that fairly froze you to it, till you involuntarily took an oath with yourself to find out what that marvelous painting meant” (13).
In this early mention of the number three, an element of confusion and amazement accompanies its presence.
A key element to understanding the picture hovers over the three lines and makes this passage seem like a metaphor for what the number three is portending.
Much like the exaggerated existence of the number three throughout the novel, the reader may feel an “involuntary oath” to figure out what meaning is just above the number.