Old Mortality Essay, Research Paper
Throughout Katherine Anne Porters Old Mortality, a variety of elements are present. Some of which consist of romance, memories and the illusions instilled upon the legendary status of Amy. All of these elements play a solid role towards the persuasion of Miranda. They persuaded her into acting on certain ideas that she pulled out of the stories about her Aunt Amy. Now even though Aunt Amy was portrayed in a very special light, the elements that surrounded the story did not exactly have a positive effect on Maria and Miranda. What this paper is going to do is explain that all the above mentioned characteristics play a positive and negative role on the lives of the two children, Maria and Miranda.
In the first chapter, Maria and Miranda were told the story about their Aunt Amy and their very romantic Uncle Gabriel. People spoke of Aunt Amy in a very loving way, but they masked the truth. They merely told the story the way that they felt it should have been told. There is no problem with this in the eyes of the brother and grandmother, but they neglect the idea that children at this age are very impressionable. This is definitely a negative aspect towards the exaggeration of how wonderful their Aunt Amy was. It carried the negative following because of many reason demonstrated throughout the story.
First is that the buildup of Maria and Miranda?s Aunt and Uncle were just the first step towards a larger let down in all facets. The first time that Maria and Miranda met Uncle Gabriel at the racetrack, after all of the good words spoken, they had a false idea of what he looked like, talked like, and acted like. They discovered that he wasn?t the perfect looking man that he was made out to be, and that he wasn?t as elegant as described. He was merely a large, loud spoken, sort of obnoxious gambler. He had a false identity stapled to him and his surroundings. It wasn?t just the fact that he did not meet the description given to him, but the idea that things surrounding him were not all that they were made out to be either. This was Miranda?s first dose of reality, and not just the stories that were being told to them. It was the first major disappointment that either Miranda or Maria faced and that changed a lot of things from that moment on. Miranda?s childhood dream of becoming a horse jockey, due to all the fond memories experienced and told to her, was changed after she realized reality. On top of that, the idea of since their Aunt Amy?s better half wasn?t all he was made out to be; maybe she wasn?t as perfect as everyone claimed her to be either. This is a very negative force in the novel, because it is the first step taken by Miranda to change her life and fall into the same trap as her Aunt Amy did.
Another negative aspect of the memories, illusions, romance about Aunt Amy was that in the third chapter, Miranda is told the real version of the story about her Aunt Amy by her Aunt Eva. Aunt Eva is a ?chinless, feminist, Latin-teaching, spinster.? They meet on a train ride to Uncle Gabriel?s funeral, and that is when, during the train ride, that Aunt Eva tells Miranda the whole story about her Aunt Amy. It wasn?t a flattering story, it revealed such issues about how Amy was addicted to sex and that she was caught in some very compromised position. Not just about the scandal involving Amy and the stranger being underplayed by the family, but also about how maybe she did not die because of reasons believed, but maybe she committed suicide. Aunt Eva made Aunt Amy look like a wreck loose youngster not afraid of anything. She was wild, impure and not exactly in love, but looking for an escape from family and reality. At the end of her time all of this caught up to her and she had only one escape. This was the version told by Aunt Eva, and to Miranda?s surprise, she has lived almost an identical life so far. She has participated in a broken marriage, she wants to escape the family mold and she wants to be free and wild. One thing though, Miranda refuses to acknowledge that this version of Aunt Amy?s life is any less romantic or true then the other version that she remembers. My personal view on this is that she doesn?t want to admit that this story is more realistic then the other one because then she wouldn?t have an excuse for doing the same thing were her life. ?Miranda has reenacted Amy?s mistakes.? She claims that it is still a romantic story because if she doesn?t then how is she going to justify what she did with her life. She has done many of the same things as Aunt Amy and she has looked up to her all this time, so admitting that her Aunt Amy was less than perfect, or not as romantic as portrayed, would be admitting to herself that she is less than perfect and made the same mistakes as her Aunt, following the same path to the end which leads to only one exit.
The before mentioned elements involved in this novel have a very negative outlook on Miranda?s life. A false sense of her family has Okayed her the right to act how she feels that her Aunt would have done. Such a sense of pride was instilled upon her by the rest of the family gave her and her sister, Maria, the idea that Aunt Amy set a path that should be followed and that is what she did. When one looks up to a person that much, without knowing the facts or the person even, then you are being built up for a let down. The way that Maria and Miranda acted once they met their Uncle Gabriel for the first time was just foreshadowing about what was going to happen in the future. The thing is that Miranda threw a curveball, she wasn?t let down by the real version of Amy?s life but she has built it up in herself so much that she can?t possibly distinguish what is reality and what is not when it comes to her Aunt Amy. Miranda has come up with her own ideas such as freedom and youth that she has taken from all of those stories, but what will come out of it for Miranda? Will the same ending prevail or will she accept the truth and change her ways?
These elements present in the story also have positive effects on the people involved. In the first section, the mere telling of the story to Maria and Miranda gives the two young girls something to appreciate, to look up to and to take pride in their family history. At such a young age, children are so impressionable and to tell them how wonderful a family member is makes them proud. It is also a positive thing for family members to remember one in such great terms; the only problem with this is that once you tell a lie enough times you start to believe it. Granted the older members of the family can remember Aunt Amy as a wonderful person because they are older and they know the difference, but when it came down to it, they should have thought about what they were doing by telling Maria and Miranda such a diluted story.
Another positive outcome that is established by this novel is the notion that maybe Miranda and Maria learned something about their own lives by looking at the life of their Aunt Amy. Since Miranda is set on the same path as Amy, then maybe she can see what she needs to do to make her life work for her. She can interpret her life compared to Amy?s and maybe end up happy. A definite look at her situation is in order after she heard the story from her Aunt Eva, because even though she claims that Amy?s story is romantic, it is a tragedy and Miranda is given the image in this novel that she deserves better. Not to be depicted as better, but she really deserves to live a better life.
Even though there are positive elements contained in the story, such as finding herself, having something to look up to and even knowing the truth, the negative aspects of the romance, illusions and diluted memories outweigh all of those positives. It really is sad because what is actually storytelling in one person?s mind is thought of as truth in Miranda and Maria?s minds and ultimately gets acted upon. The differences in truth, reality and even past and present times are quite a force to reckon with in Old Mortality. The times definitely developed as the young girls grew up. I guess as the times change so do the people living within those times, so as inappropriate it was for Amy to have the affair and the scandal to take place, it is probably more accepted during Miranda?s time. It is still not a good thing, but is a more common action than back in Amy?s days. So in conclusion, as we come to the end of the story, an analysis of the characteristics would lead me to believe that the negative force is much greater than the positive force especially present in Miranda?s life. There is nothing wrong with her wanting to get out on her own, see the world and experience, but she needs to learn about herself from her Aunt Amy and not fall into the same traps that she is so destined to do.
1) Beaty, Jerome. The Short Novel. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1999.