Rope by Katherine Anne Porter
In Rope by Katherine Anne Porter we have the theme of insecurity, love, resentment, connection, commitment, struggle and paralysis. Taken from her Flowering Judas and Other Stories collection the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the story the reader realises that Porter may be exploring the theme of struggle. Throughout the story the wife appears to be struggling as she attempts to maintain the house. At no stage does she stop thinking of things that need to be done in the house, particularly by her husband. Which in many ways may contribute to the stress that the wife feels. There is also a sense that the wife feels insecure about her relationship with her husband. Something that is noticeable when she thinks about him spending too much time in town. There is a feeling that she may not necessarily trust her husband. Though the case may also be that she may not trust other women around her husband. Either way the wife’s insecurity brings unhappiness to her.
It is also noticeable that for the majority of the story the wife is resentful towards her husband and not necessarily because he has bought the rope. That may just be a secondary issue. The resentment may stem from the fact that the wife finds living outside town to be a struggle. One which she may not necessarily be able for. Particularly as she feels she is doing all the work. There is however a strong connection between the husband and the wife, something that is noticeable when the husband goes to touch his wife. Also though town is four miles away and he has to walk, he still goes back to town to buy the bag of coffee for his wife. Regardless of their struggles he remains committed to her. Though it is also noticeable that he has not yet fixed the window sashes in the house nor does he offer to carry the mattresses outside. It is possible that this lack of input by the husband is deliberate with Parker highlighting just how difficult life may have been at the turn of the twentieth century for many women. The wife is obviously house proud while the husband is more fixated on his new rope.
The rope itself may also be seen as symbolic. A rope can tie things together which seems to be the case in the story. Both the husband and the wife are bound (by marriage) to each other, whether they like it or not. However as the story progresses they begin to think as one or in unity. With the husband going into town to buy the coffee and the wife preparing the dinner so that it is ready on his return. It is as if both individuals despite having previously argued with each other are connected again or in harmony. Where the story began pessimistically there is a sense of optimism the end of the story.
Though it may also be important to remember that nothing has actually being resolved. The husband still has his rope, the window sashes still need fixing and the mattresses still needs to be aired. On a surface level all that has changed is that the husband has gone into town to buy the coffee. There is no hint in the story that anything else will change for the couple. There is no sense that either the husband or the wife have a greater understanding of each other or that there is any mutual respect for the other person. Which may suggest a paralysis in the relationship. Things will continue as they always have. With neither person listening to the other person.
Even though Parker ends the story with optimism and the couple being affectionate towards each other, as mentioned none of the issues have been resolved. It would appear that all that has happened is that the argument has been forgotten. However neither the husband nor the wife have addressed satisfactorily the cause of the argument. Is it about not buying coffee? Is it about a piece or rope? Or is it possible that neither individual is happy in the marriage yet continue to live their lives as if they are. Both characters display an independence throughout the story, particularly the husband who refuses to bring back the rope while the wife likes things done her way in the house, even if those things aren’t being done.
There doesn’t appear to be any common ground in the marriage. The husband even suggesting that if they had children, his wife could give out to them instead of giving out to him. Though the ending of the story is optimistic, the optimism may only be short lived. Something that the reader senses the husband is aware of. Rather than listening to his wife’s concerns the reader senses that the husband will continue to live his life independently of her, yet still remain married.