Katherine Anne Porter the Life essay

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In 1930, she published her first short story anthology, Flowering Judas and Other Stories, which was highly praised by critics. Flowering Judas is the story of young American woman during the Marxist Revolution in Mexico, who advances the cause of Marxism and helps the political prisoners, but becomes disillusioned while doing so. It is the story of a woman who can't make a real commitment to life. The story ends with a nightmare, in which the woman eats the blossoms of a Judas tree, betraying herself and her cause. Porter once said that this was her favorite story.

Porter remarried in 1926 to a man named Ernest Stock, but her marriage only lasted a year. Between the years of 1910 and 1926, she suffered numerous miscarriages and a stillbirth. After Stock affected her with gonorrhea, she had a hysterectomy in 1927.

Porter never became a mother. This operation was something that Porter tried to hide, assuring her subsequent husbands and friends that she could bear children, "even going so far as to purchase monthly hygienic paraphernalia (Unrue, 2005)."

In 1930, Porter married Eugene Pressley, a young writer, in Europe. She later divorced him and married Albert Russel Erskine, a graduate student who was 20 years her junior. They divorced in 1942, and she never married again.

Porter spent the rest of her life writing and rebelling against totalitarianism, and the anti-Communist crusade of Senator Joseph McCarthy. She was also a mentor to fellow writers, including Eudora Welty, Eleanor Clark, and Peter Taylor.

Porter published a novel, Ship of Fools, in 1962, after working on it for three decades. This story is about a group of characters, who sailed from Mexico to Germany aboard a mixed freighter and passenger ship. This book attacked the weakness of a society that could allow for the Second World War (PBS, 2007).

In 1966, Porter was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Maryland. According to Wilson (1998): "Porter was not able to come to the University of Maryland to receive the award because she was ill. The president of the university and his wife went to her house in Washington, D.C., to conduct the ceremony. They were native Texans and immediately hit if off with Porter."

Porter decided to build her personal library at the University of Maryland, which started with donations of some personal papers and now includes most of her works. In Texas, her childhood home was turned into a museum.

Porter received numerous awards, tributes and honorary degrees during the last years of her life. PBS (2007) described Porter as "a perfectionist concerned with controlling every word of her stories." Her stories addressed the themes of justice, betrayal, and the unforgiving nature of the human race, and occupied the space where the personal and political meet. She died in Silver Spring, Maryland, and her ashes are buried in Indian Creek, Texas near her mother's grave. The Letters of Katherine Anne Porter were published after her death.

Porter realized her dream, which was not to become a popular writer but rather to become a respected literary author. Unrue (2005) summed up the life and work of Katherine Anne Porter best in her description of the writer: "Her mastery of theme and gift for characterization were hers alone among the storywriters; even her shortest works were imbued with a richness of design, incident, and experience seldom found outside long novels," wrote Unrue. "Her ambition and her range of emotion and effect -- from cold realism to measureless compassion, from the plainspoken to the lyrical -- were unequaled in her time and have had few successors. She was, and is forever, an American original."


Flanders, Jane. (1979). Katherine Anne Porter's Feminist Criticism: Book Reviews from the 1920's. Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp. 44-48: University of Nebraska Press.

Givner, Joan. (1982). Katherine Anne Porter: A Life. Simon & Schuster, New York, NY.

Liberman, Myron M. (1971). Katherine Anne Porter's Fiction. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.

PBS. (2007). Katherine Anne Porter. Retrieved from the Internet at http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/porter_k.html.…[continue]

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