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.)
"The Grave" is one of a series of Porter's stories that are biographical in nature and that feature a young girl named Miranda. "The Grave" is the last in the series, and it appears with other stories, collectively titled "The Old Order." The stories in "The Old Order" trace Miranda's growth from innocence to maturity, and they focus on the same characters and cover similar themes. "The Grave" begins in a family cemetery, amid the open graves, where the relatives of Miranda have been buried and exhumed, and it ends in a foreign marketplace twenty years later as Miranda looks back on the events that happened in the cemetery with new insight.
Miranda is an adult at the time she tells the story, but the events in the cemetery occurred years before. It happened when Miranda was nine years old and stopped to play with her brother in the open graves one day when they were out on a hunting trip. The experience Miranda had that day had a significant effect on her maturation process and, in fact, propelled her abruptly from innocence to adulthood. But Miranda could not recognize the significance of that day until she grew up. Familiar sights and smells triggered the memory, and Miranda was able to assign meaning to that day in her life. Porter describes the events that occurred that day in the cemetery and uses traditional symbols and images to reveal layers of meaning. "The Grave" is both a story of a young girl's initiation into womanhood and a celebration of...
(The entire section is 266 words.)
The story begins in the family cemetery of the heroine, Miranda. Then nine years old, she and her twelve-year-old brother, Paul, pass through the cemetery on their way to go hunting; they set down their rifles and climb the fence to explore the now-empty graves. The bodies had been removed to the public cemetery so the small plot of land, a portion of Miranda’s grandmother’s farm, could be sold to provide money for other relatives. Miranda and Paul play among the graves with little thought of the coffins and dead bodies they once held. Digging in the grave of her grandfather, Miranda discovers a small silver dove—she announces proudly to Paul that he must guess what she has found. Paul, too, has found something, and they play at guessing what the other has unearthed. Unable to guess, each reveals their treasure: Paul displays an engraved gold ring, Miranda shows him the dove, and they trade. Paul is especially pleased; his silver dove is the screw head for a coffin.
Miranda is satisfied with the ring, and they decide to leave, continuing the hunt for rabbits, birds, and other small prey. Miranda has never been particularly interested in hunting—a trait that her brother finds exasperating—and she is not attentive today either. Her brother tells her that the first dove or rabbit should be his to shoot, and she asks without concern whether she can have the first snake. Her mind is on the ring, which contrasts sharply with her overalls, straw hat,...
(The entire section is 617 words.)