<i>Pale Horse, Pale Rider</i>: A Modern Allegory of an Encounter with Death


The novella Pale Horse, Pale Rider, authored by Katherine Anne Porter and published in 1939, is set against the backdrop of the 1918–1919 Spanish flu pandemic towards the end of World War I. It narrates the dual story of individual and societal trauma and survival amidst the pandemic, contributing to the cultural memory of that era in American history. The narrative draws heavily on autobiographical elements, with the protagonist Miranda’s experiences closely reflecting Porter’s own. As Miranda battles a life-threatening flu, her delirious mind traverses past, present, and future, blurring the boundaries between them. This paper examines Porter’s employment of modernist techniques such as dreams, visions, archetypes, biblical allusions, and stream of consciousness to articulate Miranda’s harrowing yet transformative passage through a liminal space between life and death. Porter’s novelistic approach is distinctly modern in its exploration of mortality and the portrayal of Miranda’s near-death experience, aligning her with modernist contemporaries like T. S. Eliot and James Joyce, who also eschewed traditional literary forms to depict the profound dislocations of their time. The enduring appeal of Pale Horse, Pale Rider lies in its rich symbolism and psychological depth in addressing themes of death and illness.


Spanish flu; modernism; pandemic; symbolism; dream; death; war

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Published : 2023-12-29

KaholN. (2023). <i>Pale Horse, Pale Rider</i&gt;: A Modern Allegory of an Encounter with Death. Review of International American Studies, 16(2), 105-118. https://doi.org/10.31261/rias.15420

Navdeep Kahol  navdeepkahol@gmail.com
Government College, Dera Bassi, Punjab  India

Bio: Dr. Navdeep Kahol serves as an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Government College in Dera Bassi, Punjab, India. Her research focuses on the life narratives of Middle Eastern Muslim women. In her 2022 book, Beyond Harems and Veils, Dr. Kahol challenges prevalent stereotypes surrounding Muslim women, offering insights into their contemporary self-representation. Additionally, she has authored two other works: a collection of poetry entitled Seasons of Reflection and Tree Treasure of Chandigarh, the latter being a collaborative effort exploring the avenue trees of Chandigarh, often referred to as the City Beautiful. Dr. Kahol’s scholarly contributions include numerous papers published in international journals and as chapters in edited volumes. Prior to her academic career, she worked as a sub-editor for The Tribune, a leading daily newspaper.

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