The short story, ” The Grave,” by Katherine Anne Porter began in a secluded area that had once been the family cemetery. The cemetery was owned by the grandmother who had just passed away. In her will she had requested the land be sold and this required the family cemetery to be moved. Two children had come across the empty graves while they were hunting. Their hunting excitement is lost when they kill a rabbit and discover the rabbit was about to give birth. The central idea is about life and death and how it is a continuous cycle. A lesson is taught to these children through the sacrifice of this animal and the reality of life and death is experienced.
The children in the story are the main characters. Paul who is a 12 year old boy and the brother of Miranda loves hunting. He is very serious about his hunting skill and is protrayed as the one in charge of the hunting expedition. He tends to be the teacher and the caretaker of Miranda in the story. Miranda is a 9 year old girl and considered by others as a tomboy. She is engrossed in everything that is around her and not especially interested in hunting but enjoys the sport of shooting the gun and being with her brother. They are both considered round characters. They are described with, “adventurous eyes”, their voices are expressed with tone. The author provides you with a vivid description of how they feel as they jump into the grave and the smells that they smell. Later in the story you feel their shame and guilt for killing such an innocent creature as the brother expresses the importance of keeping this action a secret. The three flat characters in this story are the Grandmother who had just recently passed away, the old cronies that demonstrated their distaste for the upbringing of the children, the older sister, and the father. I would define both Miranda and Paul as dynamic characters. After the killing of the rabbit and seeing the baby rabbits the children changed from that moment. The reality of life was exemplified to a level that made a lasting impression.
The climax of the story is when the brother kills a rabbit that is carrying her young and about to give birth. The handling of the dead rabbit with such delicate skill is somewhat ironic. The rabbit has been killed and yet the brother is very careful to preserve the fur and the carcass only to use the fur for Miranda’s doll, an inanimate object. The major conflict in this story was the brother trying to be such a good teacher and expressing his dissatisfaction of Miranda not being the serious student in learning the skill. When the lesson included the truth about life and death the teacher was confronted with facing the lesson himself and trying to justify his careless actions. His shame and guilt about the incident was expressed in the change of tone in his voice and the way he carefully disposed of the small baby rabbits. Paul is torn between his love of hunting and the killing of such precious creatures. Miranda realizes what Paul has known all along but has kept this secret hidden about the killing of small creatures. She is enlightened at the moment he begins to forbid her to tell anyone. Miranda pushes back the reality of the situation into a place in her mind that she hopes will never surface.
The point of view used was dramatic narration and in using this method the reader is given descriptive words that provide the reader with the feelings to the actions of both characters. As a reader the characters become real in the story and you experience the human senses and interpret what the writer wants you to experience.
The setting in the secluded woods has two purposes; they are full of life from the beginning to the end. The cycle of life is seen in the trees, flowers, and the animals. The cemetery is a reminder of the cycle, that death is part of life. The children are freely playing and experiencing life to the fullest in the woods only to be intrigued in the empty grave. The graves are significant in their meaning. Once this grave held meaning to someone, a significant monument of a former life. From these empty graves came two special gifts to the children. The dove a symbol of life and the ring a symbol of never ending love. The description of the engravings on the ring gave an imagery of love in purest and simple form with the leaves/flowers engraved on the gold ring. Another clue to the time period was used in the description of the clothes that Miranda was wearing. The conflict that the clothes caused provided information about the struggle in this time period with the social norms. The dissatisfaction with the unlady like appearance of the Miranda was blamed on the raising by the Father. The grandmother apparently was also in disapproval of the fathers dismal of proper etiquette. This was given to the reader by the introduction of the old cronies and their opionions were noted in the story as they walked by. The writer gives a very detailed description of the kill of the rabbit and the skinning of the rabbit. As a reader you can imagine the feel of the warm lifeless animal and you can actually visualize the motionless creature. The reader is swept up in the visual image during this part of the story and the killing of the innocent babies that were also taken. The thrill of the kill was not so sporting when something so innocent was affected.
The Dove and the ring that are found in the cemetery are symbols that represent life (dove) and neverending love (ring). When Miranda recalled this moment 20 years later she first remembered the feeling of sadness and then envisioned her brother at age 12 holding the Dove in his hand.
This story is about life and death and the feelings that we experience when we remember the sadness. It is the good moments that we try to focus on to help us hide the pain. Katherine Porter used her own life to influence this story. She lost her Grandmother and mother at an early age and her experience with death was revealed in Miranda.