The Grave Topics for Further Study
by Katherine Anne Porter

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Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

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Although it was initially published on its own, ‘‘The Grave’’ was later published as the last in a group of stories called ‘‘The Old Order,’’all of which describe the life of Miranda’s family. Porter gives fuller descriptions of Miranda’s grandmother, her father Harry, and her Uncle Jimbilly, who are mentioned only briefly in ‘‘The Grave,’’ and of the family’s slave-owning past. Read the stories that precede ‘‘The Grave’’ and see how your interpretation of the story changes. Does knowing the full family history add to your understanding of Miranda’s ‘‘vague stirrings’’ for the past? What kind of family memories and secrets were buried in the grandmother’s cemetery?

Critics frequently suggest that the character of Miranda, who appears in several of Porter’s short stories, is closely related to Porter herself. Read parts of one of Porter’s biographies with Miranda in mind. How does Porter compare to the ideal of Southern womanhood Miranda dreams about? Can you make a connection between her interest in creating an illustrious Porter family tree and Miranda’s memories of her family’s grand past?

Porter’s work is often considered as part of a body of literature by Southern women writers, including Eudora Welty and, later, Flannery O’Connor. Read some of their works, comparing and contrasting them to Porter’s. How do they depict Southern women? How do they depict the South itself? Are there certain elements of their work that characterizes Southern women’s writing?

The Reconstruction period was a particularly dark one for the South. Plantations and families that had relied on free slave labor were often lost, unable to run their farms or their households. Find an account of a family or families that struggled with this transition. What hardships did they face? What hardships did their freed slaves face? How did the fall of the plantation system change Southern society?

Miranda seems shocked but intrigued by the womb of the mother rabbit and her unborn babies....

(The entire section is 508 words.)