Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
The corpse of Miranda and Paul’s grandfather has been exhumed three times since his death in about 1870. Twice it was removed by their possessive grandmother and reburied, first in Louisiana and then on her farm in Texas. After the grandmother’s death, the land where the burial ground lies is sold, and the grandfather—along with the other occupants of the family cemetery—is removed by his descendants to a public cemetery to lie beside his widow for eternity.
One day following the last exhumation, Miranda, nine years of age, and Paul, who is twelve years old, are hunting for rabbits and birds. Crossing the fence into the old burial ground, they notice the open graves. Miranda leaps into the pit that had held her grandfather’s bones and finds a small silver dove. Excited by her discovery, she climbs out to show the dove to Paul, who, in another grave, has found a gold ring. Miranda instinctively wants the ring, Paul the dove, so the two exchange their treasures. Realizing that they are trespassing on land that is no longer theirs, they return to the other side of the fence and pick up their guns. As they walk, Paul declares that the first dove or rabbit they see is his, and Miranda asks if she can have the first snake. The gold ring, now glistening on Miranda’s “grubby thumb,” shifts her attention from hunting to her boyish clothes; suddenly she resents her overalls and sockless feet and longs to put on a thin, becoming dress.
(The entire section is 576 words.)
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Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
“The Grave” is the final story in a collection titled “The Old Order,” which was included in The Leaning Tower, and Other Stories. The seven stories in the collection are commonly called “the Miranda stories,” as the principal character in each one is named Miranda; she also appears in Old Mortality and Pale Horse, Pale Rider. It is generally thought that Miranda is the author herself at different points in her life.
In “The Grave,” Miranda is nine and her brother, Paul, twelve. While hunting rabbits, they come upon the family cemetery, which has been emptied because the land has been sold. The children explore the pits where the graves had been and discover two small objects: a gold ring and a tiny silver dove. Miranda persuades Paul to give her the ring he has found, and Paul is pleased with the dove, which he guesses was once the screw head for a coffin.
Feeling like trespassers, they then continue to look for small game, and Paul shoots a rabbit. Skinning it, he discovers that the rabbit was pregnant and carefully slits the womb, exposing the tiny creatures within. At first Miranda is filled with wonder (not by chance is she named Miranda), but then she becomes agitated without understanding what it is that disturbs her. Paul cautions her not to tell a living soul what they have seen.
Miranda never does tell their secret, which sinks into her mind, where it lies buried for nearly...
(The entire section is 407 words.)