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. …
Anne Brontë started writing her first novel some time between 1840 and 1845 while she was working as a governess for the Robinson family, at Thorp Green near York. I imagine she must have made her excuses in the evenings, and escaped the drawing room, where she had to do the boring bits of her pupils’ sewing, and often felt awkward and humiliated – excluded from the conversation because she was not considered a lady, yet not allowed to sit with the servants either, because governesses had to be something of a lady, or how could they teach their pupils to be ladies?
Anne must have stolen away to her room and pulled out her small, portable writing desk. Leaning on the desk’s writing slope (which was decadently lined in pink velvet), Anne could go on with her novel. She had to write in secret because she was skewering her haughty employers and her peremptory pupils on the page. Although her job was difficult and thankless, she had realised that it was providing her with excellent material…
In 1911, a Boston publisher called Gorham Press brought out a small scarlet-bound book with gilt-edged pages. The title was written in gold lettering on the cover: “The Henry James Year Book.” Inside were quotations from James’s novels, stories, and essays, one for every day of the year, “selected and arranged” by Evelyn Garnaut Smalley. Smalley had arranged for the work’s publication, too: Gorham was a vanity press avant la lettre. She was a family friend of James’s, as well as a devotee of his work. Her father, a prominent American journalist living in London, had introduced the newly expatriated James to English society some four decades earlier, when Smalley was a child.
The “Year Book” was not a commercial success, and though two other presses have reissued the work since—one, in England, in 1912, and another, in Pennsylvania, in 1970—it has largely escaped the notice of even the most enthusiastic James readers and scholars. (It isn’t, for instance, mentioned in Leon Edel’s five-v…