The book report is based on your summary and assessment of the assigned novella
The book report is based on your summary and assessment of the assigned novella Pale Horse, Pale Rider
by Katherine Anne Porter. You can access a pdf of this text by going to
the going to the bottom of the list of course materials posted on the
sidebar “Content Navigator” in our UVic-Brightspace course site. Your
review of the novella is due on 6 October should be sent submitted in
class. The project should be approximately 1000 words in length. The
book report does not require referencing (ie., footnoting or endnoting) unless
you want to supplement your reading of the text by citing published
book reviews, history books or scholarly articles, all of which must be
properly acknowledged. Citations should then be in the form prescribed
by the Chicago Manual of Style or the UVic Department of History style
guide, which is on our website.
You can address Pale Horse, Pale Rider
in any way that you wish, but to do the best job possible you might
want to do some book reviewing as well as reporting. So a good response
to this assignment might involve going through three functions: first,
summarizing the novella; second, analyzing the story; and third,
assessing and evaluating the work.
task seems like the most straightforward of the three. You should
present a short—one or two paragraph,—synopsis of the story. This seems
like a simple thing but it includes an analytic element because sorting
out what to include and what not to include depends upon your view of
function involves developing your view of story’s meaning and the
author’s purpose in developing the narrative in the way that she does.
Again, you are free to do this in any way that you wish, but several
issues that might bear consideration are as follows:
Miranda is presented as a Modern Woman and Adam as a Modern Man. How
were their lives likely different from those of their forbearers? They
lived on the cusp of the Jazz Age. What did this mean?
How are the hyper-patriotic enthusiasm and jingoism of 1917/18
presented in the story? What was a Liberty Bond? What was the Lusk
Committee? What was the impact of anti-German propaganda? What kind of
pressures forced American men to enlist in the army? What was a white
● What were American women expected to contribute to the war effort during World War One? What was “hut service”?
How is the social impact of the flu presented in the novella? Why did
it seem like “a funny new disease”? How much was known about the
communicable nature of epidemic disease in 1918?
● Are Miranda’s fever dreams and near-death experience presented as being spiritual or psychological in nature?
Critics made much of the apocalyptic tone of Porter’s story. In the
Book of Revelation, the Pale Rider and Pale Horse follows riders and
horses representing conquest, combat and famine (thus the four horsemen
of the apocalypse). Did Porter mean to suggest that the 1918 Flu was
somehow a reckoning for the previous sin of fighting a war?
● The story in Pale Horse, Pale Rider
was devised by Porter in 1932, completed in draft form by 1936, and
published in 1939. It is thus really a literary artifact of the 1930s.
Is that apparent in any way?
you do not have to address any—or certainly not all,—of these issues in
your book report, but the suggestions do offer a few possible lines of
ASSESSMENT/EVALUATION—As part of this element you might want to consider how effectively Pale Horse, Pale Rider
communicates its principal themes and fits into larger discourses about
collective expressions of “patriotism” or epidemic disease.
So, for instance, there are a few issues you could consider:
Porter writes in a Modernist vein, so while her writing is plain and
straightforward the meaning of her story is not so openly stated and
could be ambiguous. Her narrative is fragmented and includes analepses
(flashbacks); she portrays the disjointed character of the thinking
process (the “stream of consciousness”); and she pays a lot of attention
to altered states of consciousness. Does this style contribute to the
effective telling of her story?
● Is Porter’s story built upon plot or character development?
● Are there ironic elements in Pale Horse, Pale Rider?
● Does the author seem to write from personal experience? If so, why did she not frame the story as a first-person narrative?
Was Porter trying to communicate an experience that lots of readers
would recognize and identify with, or was hers an intensely personal
story reflecting an idiosyncratic experience?
● Why would this literary work be of interest to anyone looking at the general history of the early twentieth century?