Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The narrator draws us into “The Grave” through several layers of time and seemingly disjointed events, each layer revealing more than the one before, like the layers that conceal the baby rabbits. At the story’s close, the reader, like Miranda, discovers continuity. By returning to a previous time and place, the frame shows that the present leads back into the past as easily and as naturally as the past moves into the present.

“The Grave” is remarkable for its naturalness of tone, part of which comes from its subtle shifts in point of view. Porter’s third-person narrator begins the story objectively, but as the story unfolds, one is drawn deeper into Miranda’s consciousness, for example, by the narrator’s reference to Paul as “Brother” during the rabbit episode. At the end, one discovers through Miranda’s mind’s eye the connection between the previous experiences.

The story’s organic blend of character, event, symbol, and metaphor can be attributed in part to its autobiographical nature: In 1902, young Porter and her brother found a small dove and a ring in their grandfather’s grave. Thus, not only did Porter employ real objects and events in the story, but she also carried the event in her mind for some three decades before it emerged and was reborn into fiction.