Katherine Anne Porter: "Old Mortality" - Forces at work in “Old Mortality”
“The past dies, but is not dead; the present generation moves on, then retreats to the past, moves on, [and] retreats again” (Stout 503). Stout words bring an interesting point: through time there is inconsistency with respect to peoples’ memories about world events. Thus how do you know that the facts you learned from previous generations are really the truth and not something that came from someone’s imagination? The answer to this question is illustrated by Katherine Anne Porter in her short story “Old Mortality.” In the story the author suggests that the only way to know what is real is through a person’s experiences. Porter developed a character that lived in a perfect world filled with romanticism and unrealistic events; she first created Miranda with the innocence of a child, the admiration for elders and love for romantic and poetic dreams. Through her short story “Old Mortality” Porter molded Miranda’s character. Porter describes human development through Miranda’s growth as person. Miranda’s first step toward development begins with doubts about her family’s history which at the end lead her to the rejection of her roots, and her growth as an individual. By rejecting her roots Miranda is able to form a clear view of herself, her goals, and her future.
Porter used a special technique for the development of her characters. During Porter’s short stories she used the “narrative space” to form her character’s identity through their experiences. Fornataro-Neil describes Porter’s characters as “silent characters”, according to him, “[silent characters] allowed [Porter] a greater opportunity to comment on the construction of identity and to critique the notion of objective truth” (349). Porter’s technique was effective and it brought forth the real issues she wanted to address without the unnecessary in-between material. The technique allowed her to go straight to the point. According with Fornataro-Neil, Porter depicts how history and identity are constructed. Miranda’s identity is constructed by rejecting her past, and as Fornataro-Neil explains “we all write and rewrite our own stories and histories based on our circumstances, agendas, pains, and individual narrative purposes” (352). With this sentence the author shows how each person creates their own identities based on their own point of view. We create our own fictitious stories of events in our lives; in “Old Mortality” Porter’s “repeated use of the words story, legend, narrative, and tale underscores the fictive nature of the family’s reconstruction of the past” (349). This was Porter’s way of letting the reader know that the family’s recollection of events is a creation of their romantic creativity.
For Miranda observation and recognition were her first steps toward her personal growth. It is unclear whether Miranda’s herself knew that she was about to embark on her life journey. Porter introduces Miranda as an innocent child full of life that in the course of the story grows to an independent woman. Since her childhood, Miranda questioned the stories told by her elders. Miranda and her sister would look at a picture of their deceased Aunt Amy and “[they] wonder why every older person who looked at the picture said, “How lovely”; and why everyone who had known her thought her so beautiful and charming” (Porter 3). Miranda could not see the beauty in the picture, yet she could not completely ignore the stereotype imposed by others. Miranda understood her family’s tradition of romantic legends filled with ideal settings, not just the accurate recollection of events. Using her own judgment against what others described as the truth she was able to view and understand the world with what she could trust, her instincts and her common sense. She knew that her elders would often use romantic language in order to make the lives of relatives more interesting. Miranda wondered how much of what she learned about her background was true. ...
In 1935, Diego Rivera masterfully created ‘The Flower Carrier’ (known in its original language as ‘Cargador de Flores’). Like many of Rivera’s paintings, ‘The Flower Carrier’ imparts simplicity, yet exudes much symbolism and meaning. The vibrant colors are rubbed into the masonite, a most common method for painting on hard surfaces.
The colourful painting displays a peasant man in white clothing with a yellow sombrero, struggling on all fours with a dramatically oversized basket of flowers that is strapped to his back with a yellow sling. A woman, most likely the peasant’s wife, stands behind him trying to help with the support of the basket as he attempts to rise to his feet. While the flowers in the basket are strikingly beautiful to the viewer, the man does not see their beauty, but only their value as he carries them to the market for sale or exchange. The geometric shapes offer bold and intense contrasts, with each figure, item, and foliage illustrated to reflect individualism. …
The poems of Emily Dickinson began as marks made in ink or pencil on paper, usually the standard stationery that came into her family’s household. Most were composed in Dickinson’s large, airy bedroom, with two big windows facing south and two facing west, at a small table that her niece described as “18-inches square, with a drawer deep enough to take in her ink bottle, paper and pen.” It looked out over the family’s property on Main Street, in Amherst, Massachusetts, toward the Evergreens, her brother’s grand Italianate mansion, nestled among the pines a few hundred yards away. Dickinson had a Franklin stove fitted to a bricked-up fireplace to keep her warm, which meant that she could write by candlelight, with the door closed, for as long as she wanted. In much of the rest of the house, the winter temperature would have been around fifty degrees. Though she usually composed at night, Dickinson sometimes jotted down lines during the day, while gardening or doing chores, wearing a si…
Péter Nádas is Hungary’s leading contemporary writer. A scholar not only of literature, but of culture, horticulture, and above all the human body and its communications, Nádas presents a picture of temperament and elegance in the great tradition of the European intellectual. He has often been compared, perhaps syntactically, to the high realists Robert Musil and Marcel Proust. Susan Sontag, one of Nádas’s earliest and most vocal champions, compares his plays to the “encounter-dramas of Pina Bausch” and the “declamatory plays of Thomas Bernhard.” I myself see him, in many ways, as the Thomas Mann of our times.
Born into a fascinating literary culture, isolated from but enveloped by the vast history of Christian Europe, in a denuded country just rebuilding from World War II, the worst catastrophe in its tumultuous thousand-year history, Nádas chronicles the peaceful prison that was (and is) Hungary in a passionate, playful, and eloquent voice. His perspicacity is disconcertingly palpabl…