Katherine Anne Porter: History In Context

1642 words - 7 pages

Is a woman's strength determined by her endurance to stay in a hurtful relationship or is it determined by her ability to move on? The early twentieth century is known to women as the "era of exuberance." (Gilbert 1205) During the early twentieth century women began to find the answer to the question at hand deeply rooted within themselves. The answer for Katherine Anne Porter seemed to be her ability to move on based on the actions she chose in her real life. Does her literature tell a different story? Born in Indian Creek, Texas on May 15, 1980, Callie Russell Porter spent most of her life outside of the state of Texas. In 1915 after nine years of marriage to John Henry Koontz she divorced him claiming "nothing in common and physical abuse." (Davidson) At this point she changes her name to Katherine Anne Porter, her late-grandmother's name. At the young age of 25 Porter had already broken the role of a traditional woman that was known to that time period.

In 1915 divorce was barely even a recognizable word, and to claim a form of irreconcilable differences and physical abuse was even more frowned upon. Porter's divorce signified not only a major alteration in her own personal life, but also the beginning of the "modernist" period. (Gilbert 1205) However when Porter changes her name to her grandmother's name, this could be taken as a new identity for herself. One could assume that Porter was not happy with her own choices and wanted a clean slate. On the other hand her name change may symbolize that she admired her grandmother's strong-will and wanted to become more like her. Without a mother Catherine Porter was indeed Katherine Porter's role model. Porter seemed to show her admiration by immortalizing her grandmother in her literature. "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall" featured in The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women is what some believe a short story depicting Porter's grandmother. After careful review one could come to the conclusion that rather it is Porter forecasting her own life and death. During the early 1900's women were becoming more modern, but one fact about women has remained the same. When dealing with her own hardships, the process is easier to discuss when a woman is able to distance herself from her hardships. Porter's way of doing this was to portray her true self in a fictional character, Granny Weatherall.

First published in 1929, "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall" appeared at the end of a period of relative prosperity in America and the beginning of what was to become the Great Depression. For women in particular, many new opportunities and roles were available. During the war, when many young men had left to fight in Europe, more women had entered the traditionally male worlds of work and higher education. In fields ranging from fashion to politics to literature, a new generation of women were expressing themselves with new levels of confidence. Granny Weatherall was a product of this...

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