Katherine Anne Porter’s Pale Horse, Pale Rider: An Autobiography About Everyone Else?

Kathrine Porter’s Pale Horse, Pale Rider opens with a lucid stream of consciousness. Throughout the dream sequence, the reader experiences intimate contact with Porter’s immediate thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Interestingly enough, upon waking up, Porter is not free from her morbid dreams of fear and death. As Porter enters a daunting reality, the readers are plunged into an inconsistent stream of consciousness, much like the one in the dream sequence. This experience can be largely attributed to porter’s use of ‘free association’. Originally coined as a Freudian method for psychoanalysis, free association is the act of allowing one’s thoughts to run freely. This technique eliminates the need for consistency in thoughts, thus, allowing the patient (and in this case, the reader) to come to their final conclusions. In many ways, Porter’s use of Free association has the same functionality. Although the reader might sense a lack of structure, they are able to gain the general sentiment, allowing them to feel the stresses of wartime and influenza in the same way.

Conversely, Porter’s use of free association can almost be viewed as out-of-place. In a story that is autobiographical in nature, the reader expects a detailed, linear description of the life and times of Kathrine Porter. Instead, the introspective novella provides an account of Porter’s life through those around her. A few examples of this become apparent the author’s description of the “envious” young couple, and her own interpretations of the characters followed by their dialogue (Porter, 180). This poses some questions to the original motive of Porter’s work; what is the purpose of an autobiography that associates more with the personas of others? How does this perspective give us a different take on disease, and how it is experienced/viewed by others? By manipulating the consciousness of the characters and subsequently, the readers, Porter alludes to a larger purpose, one in which reality is distorted and dysfunctional.

Psychoanalytic Theory- Free Association (Sullivan 2015)

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