The Moral Path: Personal Responsibility and Altruism in the Works of Katherine Anne Porter

Rachel Season McCoppin


Katherine Anne Porter’s fiction forces readers to question characters’ morality. Porter deals with “human frailty, human limitation, and the human capacity for evil” (Unrue 7). Many of her characters fail to understand their own weakness. As Janis P. Stout points out, “the troubled complexity [of Porter] makes her, at times, a difficult or even disturbing object of study. It also makes her a deeply human one—not one of the Olympians, but a flawed, irritating, and often appealing human being much like oneself” (266). Many of Porter’s works end without a clear message; posing questions without apparent answers for her readers. Porter continuously shows that following the moral path is often choosing the most difficult path. This paper will examine Porter’s novel Ship of Fools and her short stories “Flowering Judas,” “He,” “Maria Conception,” and “Noon Wine” to illustrate how personal responsibility and altruism are central to Porter’s definition of morality.

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