Katherine Anne Porter

Literary Critique - The Grave

Katherine Anne Porter
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A Symbol of Life

Published in 1944, “The Grave” by Katherine Anne Porter is a story about a brother and sister venturing into an opened family cemetery after remains have been transferred to a new plot. As the children climb into the empty pits, they discover themselves and pieces of jewelry left behind. Although the subject seems morbid, guided by curiosity and fueled by fear, the message leaves the reader with the feeling that a psychological resolution has taken place.

The siblings swap a gold ring and a silver dove, each finding the other treasure more appealing than the one retrieved. Nine-year-old Miranda takes the ring, and twelve-year-old Paul takes the dove.

Significant is the scene that follows when Paul shoots a pregnant rabbit after receiving the trinket from his sister. On slicing the rabbit open, they find the animal’s dead babies. This has a powerful impact on Miranda. At that moment she recognizes her own ability to conceive, and the human being’s ability to extinguish life. The children choose to bury the carcass with the kits wrapped in her skin.

Memories of her family’s grave will always be linked to the symbol of peace Miranda gave Paul and the mother rabbit. This is a revelation, associated with the scent and sight of the hole in the ground, and the rabbit’s unborn offspring. This childhood experience has left Miranda with a promise of renewal and life.