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.

Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

Reconstruction Era in the South
The period following the Civil War in the South was a tumultuous one. Although Abraham Lincoln...

(The entire section is 612 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Because "The Grave" is told in flashback, it is set both in the past and in the present. Both time and place play a significant role in...

(The entire section is 293 words.)

Literary Style

(Short Stories for Students)

‘‘The Grave’’ is rich with symbolism that can be interpreted in many different ways; such symbols can be...

(The entire section is 678 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The most striking literary quality of "The Grave" is the extensive symbolism that adds multiple meanings to the story. The plot is short and...

(The entire section is 838 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Porter's social conscience is evident in her writing, and some of her stories in fact take on the character of social commentaries. "The...

(The entire section is 514 words.)

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

1900s: Natural childbirth—without the use of drugs, anesthesia, or other devices—is the norm for most women. Home birth is common,...

(The entire section is 574 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. What, if anything, indicates to the reader that Miranda is on the brink of discovering her womanhood when she first sets out on the...

(The entire section is 241 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Research the role women played in Southern society in 1903, and discuss the various ways Porter highlights the fact that the children were...

(The entire section is 268 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

Although it was initially published on its own, ‘‘The Grave’’ was later published as the last in a group of stories called ‘‘The...

(The entire section is 508 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Six of the "Miranda" stories collectively titled "The Old Order," were published in a collection called The Leaning Tower and Other...

(The entire section is 183 words.)

Media Adaptations

(Short Stories for Students)

‘‘The Grave’’ was recorded as an audiocassette by Audio Partners in 1989, along with three other stories from The Collected...

(The entire section is 36 words.)

What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

A Curtain of Green and Other Stories, (1941) by Eudora Welty. Porter wrote the foreword to this classic collection of short stories by...

(The entire section is 381 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Givner, Joan. "Katherine Anne Porter." Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 102, American Short Story Writers 1910-1945, Second...

(The entire section is 350 words.)

Bibliography and Further Reading

(Short Stories for Students)

Bakhtin, Mikhail, Rabelais and His World, translated by Helene Iswolsky, Indiana University Press, 1984.


(The entire section is 496 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Austenfeld, Thomas Carl. American Women Writers and the Nazis: Ethics and Politics in Boyle, Porter, Stafford, and Hellman. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2001.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Katherine Anne Porter: Modern Critical Views. New York: Chelsea House, 1986.

Brinkmeyer, Robert H. Katherine Anne Porter’s Artistic Development: Primitivism, Traditionalism, and Totalitarianism. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1993.

Busby, Mark, and Dick Heaberlin, eds. From Texas to the World and Back: Essays on the Journeys of Katherine Anne Porter. Fort...

(The entire section is 172 words.)