Analysis of the First Paragraph in Porter’s Old Mortality

Satisfactory Essays
Analysis of the First Paragraph in Porter’s Old Mortality

First, I would like to make some broad generalizations about Katherine Anne Porter’s stories. The selections of stories that I have read could be considered stories about transition, passage from an old world to a new. There is a prolific amount of life and death imagery related to changes from slavery to freedom, aristocracy to middle-class, and birth to death. Her stories contain characters from several generations and the narratives move through out this multi-generational consciousness. The stories are as much about antitheses as the move from tradition to modernity or new ideas/ideals. The narrative perspectives illustrate the chasm between old and young/old and new.

I believe the opening text of “Old Mortality” illustrates both the conflicting views of different generations/values and ideals as well as the attempt to understand and resolve each other’s opposite. The first paragraph gives the reader a description of Aunt Amy. It is difficult to distinguish who the narrator of the text is at this particular point. It is neither Miranda or Maria nor the Grandmother. It would appear to be an omniscient narrator of no relation to the characters. Yet, the narrator displays the affect of both the young girls’ feelings and thoughts about Aunt Amy’s picture as well as the Grandmother’s perception of Amy.

While the first sentence is mostly objective description, the second sentence is full of the affectation of a subjective point of view. Aunt Amy is described as wearing a “white collar [that] rose from the neck of her tightly buttoned black basque, and round white cuffs set off lazy hands with dimples in them, lying at ease in the folds of her flounced skirt.” Words like “tightly,” “lazy,” and “ease” seem to describe what would be considered the traditional concept of the Southern woman. The wealthy Southern female is conservative, pure, fragile, peaceful, and delicate. These descriptive words could be viewed as an alignment with the traditional Southern view of women; therefore Amy is “beautiful and charming” in the eyes of the Grandmother and “every older person” and “everyone who had known her.” However, within those same words there appears the rather opposite yet still highly subjective view of the young girls who are attempting to reconcile the new values and ideas of the present with the old traditions of the past. The words “tightly,” “lazy,” and “ease” could be seen from the young girls perspective as negative descriptions suggesting boundaries, confinement, limitations, and exclusion.
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