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Born May 15, 1890, in Indian Creek, Texas; Katherine Anne Porter has written numerous short stories and a novel. Katherine Anne Porter uses autobiographical information and symbolism to relate the story of Miranda's maturation into adulthood in her short story The Grave. In The Grave, Miranda discovers her feminine side (West 28), and although she is only a child, Miranda understands a few of the events that shape a person into adulthood (Mooney 20). Porters genius as a writer is most evident in The Grave, published in 1935 (Grubbs 3319). Written in a style that is uniquely Porters, it is a powerful story of two childrens contact with the intricacies of life and death. Set on a farm in Texas in 1903 (Brooks 115), The Grave recounts the story of Miranda, the character based on Porters life (West 6), and her movement from innocence to knowledge (West 29).
Miranda learns about birth and her own destiny as a woman (Brooks 118). This short story is intensely autobiographical -- both Miranda and Porters mothers died during childbirth (Givner 236). Additionally, when Porter was young, she and her brother found a ring and a dove in the grave of their grandfather, as did Miranda and her brother Paul. Thus, not only did Porter employ real objects and events in the story, but she also carried the event in her mind for some three decades before it emerged and was reborn into fiction (Grubbs 3321). Symbolism is a prominent element in many of Katherine Anne Porters short stories. Much critical controversy exists over the symbolism in several of her works, particularly in The Symbolism happens of its own self and it comes out of something so deep in your own consciousness and your own experience that I dont think that most writers are at all conscious of their use of symbols.
I never am until I see them. They come of themselves because they belong to me, and have meaning to me, but they come of themselves. I have no way of explaining them... and I suppose you dont invent symbolism. (q. in Unrue 17) On a separate occasion Porter is quoted as saying, I never consciously took or adopted a symbol in my life (q. in Unrue 17).
While Miranda and Paul are hunting in the fields they decide to stop and explore the empty graves that once were the family burial ground. In one of the graves, Miranda finds a screw head for a coffin, a small silver dove with spread wings and a neat fan-shaped tail (70), which she rapidly exchanges to Paul for a golden ring. Many different views exist concerning the symbolic status of the silver dove. M. A.
Grubbs describes the dove as a symbol of innocence, love, and peace; and proposes that the doves emergence from the grave suggests innocence born from experience (3320). According to Joan Givner, the dove, shaped like the dove of Venus, is a symbol of earthly love (237). Another view is that the silver dove symbolizes the past, the mythic, and the sacred (Cheatham, Death 613). The use of the dove as a symbolic figure can be perceived in various ways.
Initially, the incorporation of the symbol could be coincidental. Second, the symbol might be a pretentious device to add a superficial sense of weight and depth to the story without any particular religious significance. Perhaps the dove suggests a Christian meaning which the story as a whole affirms, or the inclusion of the dove could be considered a parody of the resurrection (Cheatham, Criticism 113). Paul longs to have the dove, which typifies a killing for Paul, the archetypal male as hunter (Unrue 59).
The imperfect dove also signifies Paul, and his flawed innocence for he already seemed to be knowledgeable of birth and life (Hendrick 71). The dove possibly could be merely a personal symbol for Miranda of her brother, her youth, and the day she lost a bit of her conventional innocence; however, Porters diction validates the concept of resurrection. The dove exemplifies religious views of the Holy Spirit and the promise that He will save mans soul (Cheatham, Death 615, 617). Porter herself explained that the dove was a symbol for the Holy Spirit, art and the transcendence over mortality (Unrue 61). The gold ring Paul finds in one of the graves serves as a representation of Miranda's femininity, which she is slowly coming to know and understand. This ring is most likely a wedding band, the unbroken circle of which symbolizes a continuous connection.
From the instant Miranda first beholds the small ring, she adores its beauty. In Miranda's eyes the ring denotes extravagance and comfort. It also symbolizes marriage, and a luxurious, aristocratic past (Unrue 61, 59). Additionally, the childrens past and their ancestral heritage are also portrayed by the ring (Grubbs 3321). The intricate designs of flowers and leaves that are engraved on the ring are symbols of fertility. Miranda's wearing of the ring on her thumb is symbolic of the fact that she is not mature enough to wear the ring on the appropriate finger (Hendrick 69).
Her fondness of the ring provokes Miranda's realization of her femininity. She suddenly detests her appearance and longs for effeminate clothes and accessories. With the ring now in her possession, Miranda wants to go back to the farmhouse, take a bath, dust herself with talcum powder, and put on the thinnest, most becoming dress she owned (74). This longing is seen as preparation for her entrance into womanhood (Poss 333). The word grave has several meanings in this short story. Each of the three classifications holds secrets that must be revealed in the story (Grubbs 3320).
The literal grave, the rabbit, and the human mind serve as the three types of graves in this short story (West 28). The literal grave is what the children are playing in when they find the dove, ring, and rabbit. These empty graves represent maturity, experience, and resurrection (Grubbs 3320). When the children come across a rabbit and Paul shoots it, they discover that the rabbit was about to give birth. The mother rabbit is a symbol of life and of Miranda's knowledge of lifes events. The rabbit represents generation and death (Poss 333).
According to Grubbs, the rabbit symbolizes rebirth and fertility. The mother rabbit becomes a womb that is a grave...
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