Katherine Anne Porter's Rope
Part I: Abstract:
Like the majority of literary criticism of Katherine Anne Porter's "Rope," Jane Krause DeMouy's comments are part of a larger work examining the thread of characteristics, themes and techniques woven throughout Porter's writings. In her "Katherine Anne Porter's Women: The Eye of Her Fiction," DeMouy focuses primarily on six stories published in "The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter" between 1922 and 1928. She characterizes them as "all stories of women caught in constricting circumstances who must recognize and confront two burdens in their lives: Their sexuality and their social position." DeMouy suggests that in "Rope," Porter is examining circumstances in which a woman of her own background and social standing might find herself, trapped in an unhappy marriage and personally limited by the attitudes and values of her spouse.
The third-party narrative technique employed in "Rope" is described as not being omniscient nor providing insight into the psyche of the characters. The fact that we never learn the identity of the characters is dismissed as "The man and the woman in 'Rope' are unnamed and undescribed." What we know of the two is based primarily on the content and tone of their conversations. DeMouy describes this technique as "having a distracting effect, as if the reader were watching a film of the incident rather than experiencing the quarrel from the emotional standpoint of either husband or wife." She also makes the assumption the story is actually told in hindsight from one of the character's point of view. Since "Rope" does illuminate the husband's feelings more than the wife's, she concludes the storyteller is most likely the husband and that "Rope" is the story of a wife's frustrations and of her husband's inability to understand and comprehend them.
The wife is described as a woman who is generally unhappy with her life. She seeks comfort, order and control with no added aggravation, yet harbors a deep seated resentment just below the surface. When the husband brings home a rope instead of coffee, she takes it personally and interprets his actions as being tangible proof of his indifference toward her. In the exchange that follows, the character often displays bitter anger, resorting to bitting sarcasm and displaying a willingness to attack her husband's vulnerabilities. She carries a chip on her shoulder and saves her complaints and grievances to use as ammunition when hostilities erupt. Not only does she accuse her husband of not helping around the house, but when, in an sincere attempt to demonstrate his willingness, he reminds her of the few occasions he remembers trying, she only scoffs and discounts the worth of any of his assistance.
The husband, on the other hand, is depicted as having admirable...