Topic 1: The Grave by Katherine Anne Porter
The book revolves around two characters, Miranda a nine-year-old girl and her twelve-year-old brother Paul. However, the book ends with an older Miranda who is reliving her memories. At the same time, the book later introduces the character of her dead grandmother and grandfather. Additionally, the book illustrates Miranda’s father Harry and her older sister Maria. Further, there is a blanket reference to the family’s neighbors.
Miranda as a main character is bold and well-informed. Ideally, she is well aware of her family’s wealthy past and their present difficulties. Unfortunately, we realize that she lacks a mother and grandmother to offer her guidance on women Behavior. As a result, her father dresses her in boys clothes. In spite of her personality, Miranda is very innocent. On the other hand, Paul is found to be laid-back and tactical.
For instance, his insistence on taking his time to aim at his target and the precision with which he executes it affirms his skills. Additionally, he can be said to be responsible judging by the fact that he was out taking care of his younger sister. Furthermore, he is firm as evident in his tone to Miranda insisting that she should not tell his father of the unfortunate incidence with the rabbit.
Ideally, the book is set in the farm belonging to Miranda’s grandmother. Basically, this is where she and her family lived. Essentially, we are informed that the present locale where the story is based is in Texas. Noteworthy, Louisiana which was the previous abode for grandmother and Kentucky where other members of her family lived are mentioned. Moreover, we are told that the year is 1903.
Accordingly, we are left to imagine what time of the year it was as there is no concrete indication of any festivities. Additionally, we are informed of a terrain of trees, roses, and grass. On the other hand, the slightest clue depicting a calm weather was the fact that the duo was outdoors where they spent some considerable time. Similarly, the story is set in a traditional setting since Miranda was taunted for been dressed as a boy. Additionally, her father was castigated for allowing a girl to go outside and carry on ‘boy activities’ like horseback riding and hunting.
Initially, the story starts off with the highlighting of Miranda’s grandmother habit of carrying her late husband’s remains wherever she relocated. Notably, the story details of two such incidences. Conveniently, this sets the scene for the introduction of other characters and the explanation of their relationship. Further, the focus shifts to where we meet Miranda and Paul out on a hunting escapade.
Additionally, a scenario in which each stumble upon empty graves is portrayed. Progressively, Miranda finds a dove while Paul retrieves a ‘thin wide gold ring carved with intricate flowers and leaves’. Further, they converge and reveal their found possessions to one another where they traded between themselves. Markedly, Paul liked the dove, while Miranda loved the ring. Motivated by their lucky find, the duo set out to hunt some more.
Remarkably, they hunt down a rabbit what turns out to be quite an eventful catch. After this, we see them going back home. However, the plot generates further where we meet Miranda, nearly twenty years later and we are made to understand that these occurrences were a mere flashbacks.
Ideally, an internal conflict is evident when Miranda and Paul disagreed on who was to take the first shot at their targets. Essentially, Paul insisted that Miranda did not even care whether she got her target or not. Indeed, Miranda does not seem to deny this fact. Interestingly, she points out that what she likes about shooting is just pulling the trigger and hearing the bang.
In itself, this is a clear conflict where two main characters hold two divergent views on a particular subject. Similarly, there arises an external conflict of the man versus nature and self among the two main characters.
Basically, this arises when Paul shoots a rabbit and on skinning it discovers that it was pregnant indeed. In fact, so intense is the conflict on Paul’s side that he commands Miranda never to mention the tragedy to anyone. Equally, the conflict weighed heavily on Miranda as she forewent the collection of the rabbit’s skin which she usually did for making her doll’s clothes.
Point of View
Essentially, the story is narrated from the third person omniscient point of view. Importantly, this is emphasized by the fact that the author seems to know all events about the story. For example, the writer is privileged to be aware of Miranda’s grandmother’s habit of tagging along grandfather’s remains.
Equally, the writer reveals to us the thoughts of the characters. For instance, when Miranda and Paul killed the pregnant rabbit, the writer educates us of Miranda’s internal reflection following the grave events which had just transpired (Liberman).
Basically, Katherine Porter’s book The Grave serves to usher the readers into the initiation of Miranda’s naivety to a level of comprehension and experience. For instance, Miranda affirms that she knows that the rabbit was about to give birth when Paul skinned it.
Essentially, this highlights a shift from ignorance to experience. Further, the story unfolds and the two children are faced with the mysteries of life and death. Nonetheless, these mysteries provided a platform for which important lessons could be learned.
Additionally, it was in the graves where the children found their treasures. Consequently, the vivid imagery of Paul putting back the unborn babies into their mother’s womb and burying them helps depict the fragility and the cycle of life.
The writer primarily lets us into the book through multi-layered, disjointed time frames. Interestingly, each segment gives much more information than the prior portion. Nevertheless, the writer effectively uses flashback to narrate the story where just like Miranda, the reader discovers continuity.
Ideally, by returning to the past, the reader understands how the present leads to the past and how the past easily blends into the present. Importantly, the main style used by Katherine is Symbolism.
For example, the dove which Miranda found at the empty grave is symbolical. However, its significance differs among different people. For instance, Brandon (5) views it as a symbol of innocence, love and peace. Interestingly, the coffin at the grave had dove-shaped screws. In addition, Miranda also views a gold wedding ring to be a representation of women sexuality and marriage. Notably, this corresponds with her present status as a mature woman, Further, Miranda views the circular nature of a ring represents cyclical and external nature of life. Similarly, I would equate the dove to the purity and naivety of the duo.
Libermann, Myron. Katherine Anne Porter’s Fiction, Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1971. Print.
Brandon, Michael. “A Case Study of Katherine Anne Porter’s “The Grave” from Formalist, Freudian Psychoanalytic, Post-structuralist, and Feminist Literary Perspectives.” Diss. University of Tennessee Honors Thesis Projects, 1994. Web. “The Grave.”
Topic 2 :Review of the Novel Egalia’s Daughters
Egalia’s Daughter by Gerd Brantenberg is an interesting and informative feministic fantasy novel that illustrates the paradox of human nature. Brantenberg uses satire to espouse that social prejudices are not caused by physical characteristics of individuals, rather, they are due to cultural, historical, and economic reasons. In this novel, Brantenberg reverses the contemporary gender-roles in order to deconstruct the conventional prejudices that prevail towards the two sexes.
Consequently, the novel realigns the ordinary social setting from being patriarchal to matriarchal, which enables the author to critic the biases that prevail in the current society.Petronius, who is the male protagonist in the novel, illustrates the gender biases that exist in the current society.
In the beginning of the novel, he asks his mother Ruth Bram if he can become a seaman when he grows up. Unfortunately, she rebukes his idea and alludes that he is destined to stay at home and take care of his future children. Bram’s view is in line with that of Egalsund, the matriarchal society where she resides. In this society, women are the head of the family and the government, while men take care of children. Bram’s remarks clearly show that Petronius does not have a say over his future.
Interestingly, just like women in patriarchal societies, he can be passed over for a job or any promotion despite his skills or effort. This form of bias is commonly referred to as “the glass ceiling.” Therefore, like most women in patriarchal societies, he may be paid less than a woman and be subjected to more scrutiny and criticism because of his gender.
Brantenberg shows the theme of social prejudices and biases when he describes Petronius inability to decide on whom to marry. Petronius meets a girl called Gro Maydaughter in a local festival and he falls in love with her. Unfortunately, he is raped by three women near his house before Gro decides to marry him, which makes him despise his matriarchal society.
This scene illustrates that like most women in our current society, he does not have control over his body. When he informs his mother of his ordeal, she rebuffs at him:
“There, I knew it! You went to meet someone. You met her and she assualted you. Ripped off your peho, forced you to have sex with her. That’s what happened, isn’t it Petronius? I only want the best for you” (69).
Although Petronius says it was not his fault, his mother is overly insistent that he was raped at his own free will. Interestingly, instead of pressing charges against the women who defiled her son, Bram tells him that he is no longer allowed to visit the beach after dark. This section illustrates the prejudices in the current society where the victim is the one who normally bears the blame.
Moreover, it also shows the stigma associated with rape, which is shown by Petronius attempt to hide the rape incidence from his family.
Brantenberg cleverly shows the discriminative nature of language and how it is used to promote social prejudices. In Egalia’s Daughter, language is used to illustrate the dominance of women in all spheres of life. In this society, most names are referenced to women’s titles, which shows their superiority to men. For example, manwom means man and wom refers to a woman.
Similarly, mafele means male and fele woman. The fact that men’s names subordinate those of women shows that they have a lower social status in Egalsund. Brantenberg mainly aims at emphasizing that language can be used to exclude certain people in the society. With the rise of feminism, there has been an increase in gender inclusiveness in titles by the introduction of words such as chairwoman or chairperson, clergywoman, and policewoman.
However, there is still some level of bias in names such as mankind that do not have an equal “female” word. In my view, it is impossible to have a one hundred percent neutral names since every society has some level of gender based prejudices. Nevertheless, we should aim at introducing more neutral and inclusive names in our dictionary.
Semiology is used in the novel to illustrate the social setting and ranking of men in Egalsund. In this matriarchal society, men cloth in a manner that shows they are inferior to women. Based on semiology, the way people dress communicates to the society about the social ranking and identity. For example, a crown on a king’s head shows that he is a leader. In Egalia’s Daughter, an interesting attire “peho” is worn by men.
Peho, which means penis holder, shows that men are subjected to humiliating and unnecessary mistreatment in order to show off a part of their body. In describing the displeasure that males experienced, Brantenberg notes,
“The boys said it was awkward and uncomfortable, cramming your penis into that stupid box. And it was so impractical when you had to pee” (12).
On the contrary, women had the choice of what to wear. In fact, they even wore trousers and they did not wear bras or pehos. In our current society, bras are almost a must wear for women, which results in women breasts being objectified. On the contrary, men’s breasts have not been sexualized and it is common for them to be exposed. The objectification of men is so common in Egalia’s Daughters that they spend a considerable amount of their time discussing on the length of their penises. For example, Petronius says,
“If Dad came with him, he and the shop assistant would stand there discussing the length, colour, and quality interminably. Ought he to have a size five with a B-tube or a size six with an A-tube…” (13).
Similarly, most women in our current society discuss the size of their breast and the most appropriate bra size. Therefore, besides the semiology purpose of using ‘pehos’ to illustrate social ranking of men, it also creates humor and emboldens the topic of objectification of women’s bodies.
Egalia’s Daughters also highlights the importance of social justice and inclusiveness in enabling people to coexist. Before men were able to command authority in Egalsund society, they painfully had to abide by what women wanted.
Consequently, there was a lot of contempt amongst couples. For example, Although Christopher does not want his wife to have another baby, he cannot enforce this decision since the woman is the head of the family. Brantenberg notes,
“There was no social pressure on Ruth to have another child. And now what would happen? Ruth would get leave from her job for the duration of her pregnancy, if she wanted it, so he would have her under his feet at home all day…Christopher turned impetuously towards her. ‘Can’t you stop it’ (88)?
Obviously, the prejudices in Egalsund society made most males to be disappointed with its setting.
Brantenberg inclusion of this scene is thus important in showing the importance of inclusiveness in most patriarchal societies in order to ensure all parties are satisfied with the ultimate decisions.
In order to re-affirm individualization of all actions in the society, Petronius and his friends rebelled against Egalsund matriarchal society. In one incident when Petronius and his friend Baldrian are harassed by a woman in an ordinary club, they told her they were going to for gays. This scene shows that individuals can determine their actions and have different views.
In the latter chapters of the book, men are able to install a democratic system which enables them to have a voice in the society. Consequently, when Gro gives birth to Petronius child, the latter agrees to care for the kid but he refuses fatherhood-protection or any relationship with her. In addition, Petronius and Christopher conclude that women in Egalian society are glorified because they are homosexuals (Brantenberg, 197).
Although this thought is unconvincing and exaggerated, it clearly illustrates that there cannot be a just society unless it is inclusive and respects all genders. Further, it shows that individuals can express their own independent thoughts and actions.
Brantenberg approach in deconstructing the gender issues and how the society is administered enables the reader to have a clear understanding of the realities of the world. In particular, she illustrates the impact of sexual orientation and class on women. By analyzing language, romantic notions, and semiotics, she is able to illustrate the prejudices in the world and how they limit women from attaining their full potential. Finally, she highlights on solutions that women can use in ensuring the society is more inclusive.
Brantenberg, Gerd. Egalia’s Daughters. Journeymen Press, 1985.