The Narrator Merges with Ottilie in Porter’s Holiday

The Narrator Merges with Ottilie in Porter’s Holiday

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The Narrator Merges with Ottilie in Porter’s Holiday


“Ottilie, now silent, was doubled upon herself, slipping loosely on the edge of the seat. I caught hold of her stout belt with my free hand, and my fingers slipped between her clothes and bare flesh, ribbed and gaunt and dry against my knuckles. My sense of her realness, her humanity, this shattered being that was a woman, was so shocking to me that a howl as doglike and despairing as her own rose in me unuttered and died again, to be a perpetual ghost. Ottilie slanted her eyes and peered at me, and I gazed back. The knotted wrinkles of her face were grotesquely changed, she gave a choked little whimper, and suddenly she laughed out, a kind of yelp but unmistakably laughter, and clapped her hands for joy, the grinning mouth and suffering eyes turned to the sky.” (Page 434)

This passage shows how the narrator finalizes her exile from the story by merging with Ottilie. The storyteller excludes herself throughout the tale by never being identified with a name or origin; she is in a state of “perpetual exile.” The narrator allies herself with Ottilie halfway through the story when she describes a filament connecting them “so that her life and mine were kin, even a part of each other” (427). Here, they become one so that the narrator and her personal life safely disappear from the story. Ottilie “doubled upon herself” represents the doubling of the two women. In the next sentence, the words “her” and “my” are used back-and-forth five times, almost as if one possessive pronoun could be exchanged for the other. In this sentence, the narrator’s fingers slip between Ottilie’s clothing and flesh, and thus their bodily contact merges the two physically.
The following sentence describes Ottilie as a “shattered being,” perhaps because her new being is mixed with the narrator’s presence. The narrator never feels real in her own right, and it’s only when she senses the “realness” and “humanity” of Ottilie that she feels a breakthrough. However, she no longer has thoughts/feelings/sounds of her own; her reactionary howl is described as being Ottilitie’s as it rises unuttered and dies again. Therefore, the narrator finds her own identity when allied with Ottilie. She is hereafter described as a “perpetual ghost” because she no longer exists in and of herself, but in Ottilie.

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She may not be a literal ghost, but a ghost as pertains to recognizance of the self, that which makes one unique.

The narrator’s union with Ottilie is completed in the next sentence, which implies they are in the same body: “Ottilie slanted her eyes and peered at me, and I gazed back.” This brings to mind Amelia’s cross-eyes that seem to gaze at one another. Ottilie’s face is “grotesquely changed” and for the first time she expresses joy and excitement. The narrator has finally “found herself” through Ottilie, and as an individual entity she is exiled from the story.

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