Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 446
This novella from 1939 is the semi-autobiographical story of the author Katharine Anne Porter's experience of nearly dying in the American flu pandemic of 1918. Flu pandemics also occurred in Great Britain; the loss of life, given the timing at the ending of the first World War, was catastrophic. The parallels of loss of life from both war and flu inform Porter's story. The title, Pale Horse, Pale Rider, is a reference to the Book of Revelation, beholding Death riding a pale horse. When the armistice is announced, Miranda (the main character in the story, based on Porter) has been severely ill in bed for some time but is awakened by the commotion of this news beings spread. Her consciousness shifts back to more awareness and she learns slowly of what has taken place while she was near death. These quotes are among the most powerful in the story.
The light came on, and Miss Tanner said in a furry voice, “Hear that? They’re celebrating. It’s the Armistice. The war is over, my dear.” Her hands trembled. She rattled a spoon in a cup, stopped to listen, held the cup out to Miranda. From the ward for old bedridden women down the hall floated a ragged chorus of cracked voices singing, “My country, ’tis of thee”
Miranda hears this and in the stupor and weakness of her flu, she drifts into a dreamlike state and thinks on the national anthem and her thoughts about the war and the loss of her loved ones. She thinks on mortality as she hears the sounds of old women in the ward nearby.
Sweet land . . . oh terrible land of this bitter world where the sound of rejoicing was...
(The entire section contains 446 words.)
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