Feminist Issues in Katherine Anne Porter Historically women have been considered intellectually inferior to men and also a source of temptation and evil. Women have also been considered naturally weaker than men, squeamish, and unable to perform work requiring muscular or intellectual development. In most early societies, and up until fairly recently, domestic chores were relegated to women, leaving heavier labor such as hunting, plowing, and careers outside of the home to men. Maternity was considered the natural biological role of the woman, and it has also been highly regarded as her social role as well. Young girls learned from their mother's example that cooking, cleaning, and caring for children was the behavior expected of
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This work, which is set in the south, is separated into three sections with the first one beginning in 1885 and the last one taking place in 1912. There are three main characters in this story; Miranda, Miranda's Aunt Amy, and her Cousin Eva. Miranda's older sister, Maria, is highly involved in the first two sections of the story but the reader is not able to see her inner thoughts nor her transformation from a child into an adult. Some critics believe that "Old Mortality" is simply a story of romantic ideals, romantic love, and the past, but there is also an issue of femininity present.
In the first section of the story Maria and Miranda are merely children, twelve and eight years of age respectively. They are being raised by their grandmother and their father. In every aspect of their lives they are taught about the ideal of the southern belle. Miranda's father and grandmother preserve the family history by refusing to admit the imperfections in the women in their family. Miranda hears her father talking about a picture of Amy, saying "...she was much slimmer than that, too. There were never any fat women in the family, thank God". Miranda knows that the reality was to the contrary of that statement because her great-aunt Keziah was so overweight that her husband "had refused