Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Grave” is one in a series of Katherine Anne Porter’s stories that relate Miranda’s initiation into experience and into a modern world at odds with the traditional world of her grandmother. The initiation in this story is multilayered: seeing and touching the unborn rabbits in their mother’s womb, young Miranda discovers the adult secret of pregnancy and birth; applying this new knowledge to her own mind and body while perceiving the incongruity of the gold ring shining on her grubby thumb, she differentiates herself from her brother and comprehends her sex. This knowledge, springing as it does from death, exposes Miranda to the cyclical nature of life, a discovery that informs her vision twenty years later. Her flashback begins with a dreadful vision, suggestive of the rabbit episode, and at once fades to a vision of Paul, a vision charged mostly with life-affirming details: sunshine, youthfulness, the movement of hands, a smile, and the dove—symbolic of innocence, peace, and love. The adult Miranda’s layered vision suggests that she has assimilated her childhood initiation, for it reveals a comprehensive, cyclical view of life, one that accepts at once sweetness and corruption, joy and pain, life and death.

The images of incongruity throughout the story help prepare the reader (and young Miranda) for the adult Miranda’s vision: for example, children (symbols of innocence) playing inside the graves (symbols of experience, one of the...

(The entire section is 550 words.)


(Short Stories for Students)

In ‘‘The Grave,’’ Porter’s use of symbolism allows a very short story to express a variety of themes. The ring and dove found by...

(The entire section is 947 words.)