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This is essentially just an argument between a husband and a wife: she sent him down to the village to buy some supplies, and he comes back without her coffee but carrying fifty feet of rope. He has no pressing need for this rope, and in his thoughts he admits he bought it largely to exercise the freedom of being able to buy such a thing. And while the argument grows into deeper concerns, the rope repeatedly rekindles the argument; it gets dropped on some eggs and crushes them, and the husband tries to find a place to store the rope in the kitchen while the wife objects to every location.

Interestingly the story is told entirely in indirect and unquoted speech, creating a disconnect that captures the substance of the couple’s argument without being swept up in the anger of their feelings. Indeed, thanks to the disconnect it’s easy to read this story as a farce between two people who can’t see each other’s thought processes (but, thanks to the omniscient narrator, the reader can).

I notice from a brief search online that this is sometimes used as a high school text, given the various short essays that have been posted. Someone has even typed into wiki.answers “What is the theme of Rope?” (The only answer, “a lack of understanding,” is fair enough.)

Rope by Katherine Anne Porter

Availability: Print only

Word count: 2,400

First published: Possibly 1928

Where to find it: The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter, collection, 1979, Harcourt

Collected Stories and Other Writings, collection, 2008, Library of America

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One thought on “Rope by Katherine Anne Porter

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