Keen (2003) states when looking at plot the problems begin with definition. It may be fairer to conclude that definition can vary depending on the author and how he/she wishes to present his/her story through the use of narration and plot devices. In the case of ‘Rope’ by Katherine Anne Porter plot could be defined as what the narratee understands as the real story, after deciphering the narrators telling by getting at the underlying events through the authors use of plot devices.
The plot begins in a state of equilibrium and we are presented with a couple that have recently moved to a new home in the country. A wife comes out to greet her husband after he returns home on foot with essentials from the local convenience store, which is a few miles away. The equilibrium is disrupted when the wife discovers her husband has purchased some rope that not only seems unnecessary but may also be responsible for the destruction of some eggs within the groceries. The disruption caused by the rope continues to grow revealing to the reader deeper issues within the couples relationship.Order now
The story is narrated in the order in which it happens, but the narrator uses analepsis through the voice of the wife to let the reader know of an affair the husband had a year earlier whilst working away from home. Although the story is narrated in a straightforward manner, the issues surrounding the story are presented in a more disordered fashion. This forces the reader to read deeper into the story to get a deeper understanding of the plot. Although no prolepsis is presented in the plot, the reader is given the sense that this confrontation is a recurring theme to the couple’s relationship.
To further the nartee’s understanding of the plot, Porter uses symbolic metaphors throughout the story. “She had meant to put the mattress out to sun”. The symbolism used here could suggest to the reader, how the couple as individuals see or deal with their martial issues. The wife wishes to bring the issues out in the open, so that they can deal with them and move forward. Whereas the husband would rather not deal with the issues at present, or at all if he could get away with it. This use of symbolic metaphor not only allows the reader a deeper understanding of each characters approach to their relationship, but may suggest why they are bound to the same recurring conflicts.
By reading the story alone, the reader does not get a true understanding of the plot. At first reading, you may be left asking why this woman tolerates her husband’s flippant attitude and past affair. By use of an ellipsis Porter perhaps present us with a reason. “He put his arm around her and patted her stomach”. Although it is not stated, it becomes clear to the reader that the couple are due to have a child together.
This revelation in the last paragraph presents the title ‘Rope’ with a new metaphorical meaning. Suggesting that the title is not the rope from the story, but instead the umbilical cord of the unborn child tying the couple together. In conclusion ‘Rope’ is a good example of the difference between story and plot. By just reading the story alone the reader would be left thinking that the couple had had an argument about the husband buying some rope and forgetting the wife’s coffee. Whereas by looking deeper we are presented by a woman who is tied to a relationship that makes her far from happy. The title transforms from being about the ‘Rope’ bought flippantly by the husband to a metaphor of the wife’s bondage to a failing relationship.